Chinese Lunar Lander Malfunctions, Cuts Mission in Half
China’s “Jade Rabbit” was the first machine to make a soft landing on the Moon since 1976, but a mechanical malfunction will likely end its ...
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been consistently making new discoveries since it landed on the surface of Mars in late 2012, finding signs of water after its arrival and helping to show that the potential for life once existed in at least two places on the red planet’s surface. However, the US is not the only country to have recently put a machine in space in order to probe the mysteries of the solar system.
On December 14, 2013, the Chinese lunar rover Yutu (“Jade Rabbit” in English) touched down on Earth’s moon to begin a three month mission of geologic surveys, analyzing surface composition, and collecting other data on the Moon.
Yutu’s arrival marked the first soft landing on the Earth’s natural satellite since 1976 and made China just the third country to accomplish that feat; though it arrived safely, the rover may prove unable to complete its mission. Chinese state media reports that the rover suffered a mechanical abnormality before it was scheduled to enter a hibernation period during the coming lunar night, which lasts about two Earth weeks and sends temperatures on the moon plummeting. If unable to hibernate, the solar-powered rover will not “wake up” when the lunar night ends.
The Jade Rabbit’s mission will be effectively cut in half by the malfunction, marking the first public mishap China’s space program has had in years; over the past couple years China has successfully launched several manned space flights.