Only lunar dawn will tell if Jade Rabbit was fixed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 January, 2014, 3:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 January, 2014, 5:10am

Scientists will have to wait until the end of the lunar night, which lasts about 14 earth days, to see if repair efforts on China's first moon rover - the Jade Rabbit - were successful, state media said.

The Jade Rabbit began experiencing "mechanical control abnormalities" on Saturday when entering the lunar night, which exposes the surface to extreme cold. The rover is supposed to shut down during that period.

"The complicated environment on the moon's surface is frequently the main reason leading to abnormalities in the lunar vehicle," Pang Zhihao , a researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology, told state media.

Strong radiation, weak gravity, extreme temperature variations and other factors could cause the glitches, Pang told the Science and Technology Daily.

China landed the Jade Rabbit, named after a Chinese lunar folk heroine's pet rabbit, in mid-December to nationwide fanfare on a mission to conduct geological surveys and search for natural resources.

The landing was a point of national pride and seen as a demonstration of the country's ability to engage in space operations. Beijing has been increasingly ambitious in developing its space programmes for military, commercial and scientific purposes, but it is still playing catch-up to the United States and Russia.

The Jade Rabbit, and the Chang'e-3 probe that delivered it, marked the first "soft landing" on the moon since 1976, before which both the US and the Soviet Union accomplished the feat.

The US has successfully landed four rovers on Mars, two of which are still active. The decade-old Opportunity recently found evidence that fresh water once pooled on the planet's surface.