There’s a bit of sad news in the space world today; China’s lunar rover, affectionately named Jade Rabbit, bit the dust.
Jade Rabbit, known as Yutu in Chinese, was a milestone in China’s space program. The rover landed on the moon late last year and observed and explored the surface remotely. A malfunction last month, however, caused the rover to stop working.
Although nothing is for sure, it seems as though the rover failed to hibernate during the second lunar night, which lasts two weeks and can cause temperatures to plummet to as low as -180 degrees Celsius. During this time, it is believed that Jade Rabbit couldn’t protect itself and use radiation to warm its sensitive instruments, or that the rover was unable to gather the solar energy needed to keep power.
Yutu could also have malfunctioned because it was damaged by sharp moon dust, which has been known to find its way into thick and protective space suits.
Whatever the reason, Jade Rabbit’s demise has been seriously mourned.
When news the rover began to malfunction last month, fans of the rabbit took to Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, to show their respect and send their sympathies to Jade Rabbit.
"You have done a great job, Yutu. You have endured extreme hot and cold temperatures and shown us what we have never seen. Hope you get well soon, but no matter what, it is your presence that makes the planet about 390 thousand kilometers away dazzling," wrote "Amaniandlove."
Twitter also had its fair share of Yutu chatter:
— Perl (@G0ld3nGURL) February 12, 2014
— twitmonico (@twitmonico) February 12, 2014
“Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humanity.” RIP #Yutu . You’ve been such a good rover. I’m going to miss you.
— Francesco Testoni (@FrnklTumbleweed) February 12, 2014
— AJ-FI (@wenwynwynren) February 12, 2014
The Jade Rabbit was China’s first successful soft landing since 1976. China has plans for a permanent space station in 2020, and a manned lunar mission.
Watch the rover make its historical landing, here:
Image via YouTube