Jade Rabbit lunar rover declared lost

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This image of the landing site shows the Chang'e 3 lander (large arrow) and Jade Rabbit rover (small arrow), visible as small dots on the lunar surface.
Image: NASA.

Chinese state news today declared Jade Rabbit, China's first moon rover, irreparably damaged.

The Chang'e 3 lander, the first lunar lander for 37 years and of the third nationality, touched down and launched Jade Rabbit in December. Jade Rabbit was designed to spend three months seeking out natural resources but has not functioned since a fault was discovered on January 25.

The probes have to shut down for two weeks each month to survive the "lunar night", during which surface temperature drops to -180 °C or less. The first lunar night of the mission was weathered successfully but Chinese scientists suspected the rover had failed on the 25th when the second night rolled in. Communication could only be attempted when the night ended on Monday, but reactivation efforts failed and the rover is now confirmed derelict.

State-owned Xinhua news agency blamed the fault on "the complicated lunar surface environment". Only the US and ex-USSR had previously landed rovers on the moon, with China and the States fueling renewed interest in Earth's natural satellite as a possible source of minerals.


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