Chinese lunar rover comes back from the dead

13 Feb 2014

Despite initial fears, China’s first lunar rover has shown signs of life on the moon’s surface after it succumbed to a massive internal malfunction.

Last month, China’s state news agencies reported that the country’s first lunar rover, Yutu – ‘jade rabbit’ in Chinese – could not be fixed from Earth and its serious mechanical problems left it destined to remain dormant on the satellite’s surface forever more.

The rover was part of China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e-3, which has made it only the third nation in history, after the United States and the Soviet Union, to land a spacecraft on the moon.

Now however, Chinese scientists have begun picking up a signal from the robot, indicating that life remains in the ‘jade rabbit’ despite its mechanical problems.

Pei Zhaoyu, the Chinese space agency’s spokesman, confirmed the reception of signal by saying, “the rover stands a chance of being saved as it is still alive”.

The rover’s initial problems occurred in last January, when it was due to enter a two-week hibernation period during one of the moon’s ‘lunar nights’.

However, the equipment that was supposed to put it into hibernation did not work correctly and exposed some of the rover’s vital equipment to temperatures it simply could not handle.

The Chinese team remains optimistic that the rover can return to some form of functionality in the coming months, as the country continues its progress towards building a permanent space station to orbit Earth by 2020 and land a man on the moon, the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic