China's moon rover breaks down halfway through mission

China's moon rover breaks down halfway through mission

Credit: Chinese space agency

Named after a mythical rabbit who lives on the moon, Yutu was a source of national pride when it launched into space last December along with the lunar lander Chang'e-3, named after the moon goddess who kept Yutu by her side.

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by Wilfred Chan / CNN

khou.com

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 12:03 PM

(CNN) -- China's brand new moon rover is already saying farewell.

The diminutive lunar explorer, known as Jade Rabbit, or "Yutu" in Chinese, was about halfway through a three-month mission to study the moon's crust when it suffered a potentially crippling breakdown, said state media.

The report, authored by China's state-run Xinhua news, was written in the voice of the rover itself.

"Although I should've gone to bed this morning, my masters discovered something abnormal with my mechanical control system," said the Xinhua report, in the voice of the Jade Rabbit. "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," it added.

During a lunar night, which lasts about 14 Earth days, the moon's surface temperature can plunge to minus-180 Celsius. To make it through the cold, the lunar rover must "hibernate" to preserve its delicate electronics.

If a mechanical problem keeps it from hibernating properly, then the Rabbit could freeze to death.

Named after a mythical rabbit who lives on the moon, Yutu was a source of national pride when it launched into space last December along with the lunar lander Chang'e-3, named after the moon goddess who kept Yutu by her side.

The successful lunar landing made China the third country in the world to perform a "soft landing" on the moon's surface.

Earlier, Yutu and Chang'e survived their first lunar night together, from Christmas until the second week of January.

The Chang'e-3 lander successfully entered a second hibernation on Friday and is expected to function normally for another year.

"[Chang'e] doesn't know about my problems yet," said the voice of Yutu in the Xinhua report. "If I can't be fixed, everyone please comfort her."

On social media, thousands of Chinese internet users sent their well-wishes to the little robot.

"You have done a great job, Yutu. You have endured extreme hot and cold temperatures and shown us what we have never seen," wrote one microblogger, as quoted by Xinhua.

Another wrote: "This is too heavy a burden. If the rabbit can not stand again, maybe we should let it have a rest."

Click here to read more at CNN.com.

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