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China's Moon rover declared dead due to mechanical issues

February 13, 2014 03:24 IST

In a huge setback to China's ambitious space programme, its first lunar rover Yutu or the Jade Rabbit was declared dead after attempts to revive it failed, media reports said on Wednesday.

The Jade Rabbit "could not be restored to full function", BBC reported, citing state media, about China's moon rover that ran into mechanical problems last month.

The landing in December made China one of only three nations -- after the United States and the former Soviet Union -- to "soft-land" on the moon's surface, and the first to do so in over three decades.

Chinese scientists were not able to repair Jade Rabbit which has broken down on the surface of the moon.

State-run Xinhua news agency reported last month that Yutu had experienced a mechanical control abnormality due to "complicated lunar surface environment".

The abnormality emerged before the rover entered its second dormancy as the lunar night fell, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence said.

The lander, another part of the Chang'e-3 probe, also "fell asleep" earlier on Friday.

The pair went dormant for two weeks about one month ago when the first lunar night of the mission occurred.

One night on the Moon is about 14 days on Earth, during which the temperature falls below minus 180 Celsius. During the lunar night, there is no sunlight to provide power to Yutu's solar panel.

The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, was originally scheduled to carry out geological surveys and astronomical observations for three months after it landed on the moon on December 14.

The rover had travelled over 100 metres and completed most of its tasks, the report said.

A planetary rover specialist at a German aerospace company, Lutz Richter, speculated that the electric motors withdrawing solar panels on the rover might have failed, damaging sensitive equipment in the intense cold.

The rover was about to shut down its systems to get through the lunar night when it broke down.

China has rapidly built up its space programme since it first sent an astronaut into space in 2003.

The Chang'e-3 mission constitutes the second phase of China's moon exploration programme, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to the Earth.

Image: China’s first lunar rover Yutu or ‘Jade Rabbit’

Photograph: Reuters

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