China is mourning the loss of its first lunar rover, the Jade Rabbit, after it reportedly died on the moon’s surface due to technical problems.
The Yutu rover was declared dead by Chinese state media on Monday, who said the robot “could not be restored to full function” after its solar panels failed to close during the two-week lunar night, a period during which temperatures plunged to -170 degrees Celsius (-274 degrees Fahrenheit).
Scientists at the Chinese space agency said Jade Rabbit’s chances of surviving the cold lunar night remained bleak if it did not hibernate to preserve its core systems.
The rover had been unable to function since the problem was detected.
The Jade Rabbit was able to send a sentimental farewell upon “learning” of its impending demise.
“Although I should’ve gone to bed this morning, my masters discovered something abnormal with my mechanical control system. My masters are staying up all night working for a solution … Nevertheless, I’m aware that I might not survive this lunar night,” it said through its own social media account, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
“If this journey must come to an early end, I am not afraid. Whether or not the repairs are successful, I believe even my malfunctions will provide my masters with valuable information and experience.”
“The sun has already set here and the temperature is falling very quickly … I’ll tell everyone a secret. Actually, I’m not feeling especially sad. Just like any other hero, I’ve only encountered a little problem while on my own adventure.”
“Good night, planet Earth. Goodnight, humanity.”
On Wednesday, scientists said there might still be hope for Jade Rabbit after it “showed signs of awakening,” Global Times newspaper reports.
A downlink signal from the rover was reportedly detected by UHF Satcom, a website devoted to the amateur monitoring of radio signals from deep space, according to astronomy blogger Emily Lakdawalla.
“The situation of the little rabbit is improving, with a little indication of awakening, wait a while more.”
Jade Rabbit, named after the shape of a rabbit that can be seen on the Moon, sent back its first pictures from the Moon after it was deployed on December 15.
Scientists lauded the Jade Rabbit’s successful landing, the first since 1976, as a step forward for “mankind as a whole.” But its early death deals a blow to China’s ambitious military-run space program which it said was aimed at exploring and using space “for peaceful purposes.”
By Maesie Bertumen