Yutu or Jade Rabbit, the Chinese unmanned lunar rover has ‘awoken‘ from its scheduled dormancy and ‘stands a chance of being saved’, a spokesperson quoted by news agency Xinhua said, after suffering a serious mechanical problem in January. Deployed on 15th December 2013, it was the first successful soft landing on the moon since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976. The rover’s name is a reference to the pet rabbit of Chang’e, the goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology.
The Yutu rover, deployed from the Chang’e 3 lander with a mission duration of three months, ran into rough waters before going into dormant state. The problems were mainly due to ‘complicated lunar surface environment’ as stated by Xinhua news agency. The rover was due to become dormant for 14 days during the lunar night, when there would be no sunlight to power the rover’s solar panel. The malfunction emerged before the rover entered its scheduled dormancy period.
Earlier reports in Chinese media had suggested that Jade Rabbit, or Yutu, had been declared dead on the surface of the moon. ‘Although I should’ve gone to bed this morning, my masters discovered something abnormal with my mechanical control system’ lamented the rover in a diary piece that was also tweeted by a fan-run Webio account, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. ‘My masters are staying up all night working for a solution. I heard their eyes are looking more like my red rabbit eyes. Nevertheless, I’m aware that I might not survive this lunar night.’ The rover’s unofficial Weibo account has been flooded with messages of sympathy and admiration.
The rover which had stopped functioning, has survived the lunar night as it is reported, is now fully awake and is able to receive and transmit signals, but still suffers from a mechanical control abnormality. This came as a relief for China, only the third country to send an expedition on the moon after the USA and Russia. It will resume its planned three-month mission and continue examining the moon’s surface for potential resources. The malfunction will give it’s masters valuable information and experience.
Whether the rabbit will return to its full functionality is still a matter of time but this is definitely a great leap for the Chinese. Future generations can proudly say there is actually a ‘Jade Rabbit’ on the moon, which is a popular Chinese folklore!