China's 'Jade Rabbit' lunar rover freezes to death on moon (Updated)

Credit: AFP-JIJI

It's a sad day for space exploration. China's lunar rover Yutu (translation: Jade Rabbit) is dead. The lunar rover was supposed to enter hibernation for two Earth weeks (one lunar day), but it failed to fold up one of its solar panels and enter sleep mode. As a result of being a tough guy, Yutu froze to death on the moon.

China's ECNS news reports all hope of restoring communication with Jade Rabbit is gone. According to New Scientist "When temperatures plunge, the rover's mast is designed to fold down to protect delicate instruments, which can then be kept warm by a radioactive heat source."

Yutu's moon escapade was originally scheduled to last three months. On December 14, 2013, China's Chang'e-3 moon lander successfully landed on the moon and deployed Yutu. While its mission was cut short, thanks to Yutu, we got to see this gorgeous panorama from our natural satellite. (Its surface was confirmed to not be made of cheese — again).

It isn't all solemn news. China's Chang'e-3 moon lander is up and operational after waking up from its lunar slumber, although it's unclear what the next plan for the remainder of the lunar mission will be, now that Yutu is useless.

Update: In what can only be described as a small miracle, China state media (via CNN) reports Yutu is somehow "fully awake" and they've been able to establish communicaton with it. However, the mechanical malfunctions still prevent it from doing anything useful. So basically, Yutu can talk, but it's mobility is still disabled.

ECNS, via io9 and New Scientist

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