China's moon rover dies of extreme old age, after two-and-a-half years

Yutu – aka Jade Rabbit – ground to a halt years ago, but is now pining for the craters

China never fails in its high-profile scientific endeavours, so news that its Yutu lunar rover has stopped functioning is being spun as a triumph for its space program.

Yutu – aka Jade Rabbit – landed on Luna in December 2013 but by January 2014 was reported DOA.

By February 2014 the vehicle was revived, but had become immobile: it was only able to move during its first few weeks on the Moon and only travelled a few meters, well short of the vehicle's 10km range.

It has, however, been able to send data during Lunar days, the 14-Earth-day periods during which it received enough sunshine to power its various components.

The probe managed to send data between December 2013 and early this year, meaning it worked (on and off) for longer than any other Lunar lander. China's therefore chuffed that it can claim that record from Russia's Lunokhod 1. But let's not mention the numerous glitches along the way, shall we, or be churlish enough to suggest that this extreme endeavour did not go perfectly?

In its two-and-a-bit years of active service, Yutu used its ground-penetrating radar to conduct analyses of Lunar soil and conducted astronomical observations impossible to make from Earth.

China's said that Yutu was done in by unexpected extremes in the Lunar climate, which meant one half of the vehicle was seared while the other froze.

China plans at least two more Moon missions. One is intended to land and observe the moon, the other hopes to return samples. ®


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