Jade Rabbit lunar rover

Jade Rabbit moon rover may be beyond repair, state media hints

Reports raise possibility that Jade Rabbit cannot be fixed; emphasise scientific achievements and difficulties of operating in lunar extremes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 4:22am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 4:22am

Scientists may not be able to repair China's lunar rover, Jade Rabbit, that has broken down on the surface of the moon, a report on state media suggested.

The report from Xinhua, written as if it sent by the rover itself, said the problems could prove insoluble.

"Masters are working round the clock. In spite of that, I know I might not be able to make it through this lunar night," the "report" from Jade Rabbit said.

"If this journey is to be suspended ahead of schedule, I am not fearful. No matter whether I can be fixed or not, I believe I have left masters much valuable information and experience."

The authorities reported on Saturday the rover had experienced a "mechanical control abnormality'' and scientists were trying to fix it.

The problem happened just before the rover was about to enter its second lunar night, which lasts about two weeks with temperatures plunging to minus 180 degrees Celsius.

Another report on Xinhua also appeared to prepare the public for bad news about the rover, saying other lunar probes regularly encountered problems. It emphasised the achievements of the latest mission.

Beijing-based writer Zhang Yian was quoted as saying: "This is too heavy a burden. If the rabbit cannot stand again, maybe we should let it have a rest."

Jade Rabbit was originally scheduled to carry out geological surveys and astronomical observations for three months after it landed on the moon on December 14. The Xinhua report on the rover said it had travelled over 100 meters and had completed most of its tasks.

A planetary rover specialist at a German aerospace company, Lutz Richter, speculated that the electric motors withdrawing solar panels on the rover might have failed, damaging sensitive equipment in the intense cold.

The rover was about to shut down its systems to get through the lunar night when it broke down.

Jiao Weixin , the deputy director of the China Society of Space Research's space probe committee, said it was still unclear if the rover could be fixed.

"Scientists have little time as it's already night on the moon. If the Jade Rabbit can't continue working it will have a serious negative impact on this project as most research machinery is installed on the rover.''

Internet users have left thousands of comments on the Sina Weibo account of Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, expressing sympathy about the breakdown.

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

The Xinhua report written as if it was from the rover itself noted that half of the 130 moon missions had encountered failures in some form.

"I am not that sad. Like all the heroes in other stories, I have just encountered some problems in my adventure," the report said.