Updated: China’s official news agency Xinhua is reporting that Yutu has been resurrected. Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for China’s lunar program, said the rover has been able to pick up signals, though it still suffers from a mechanical control abnormality. “The rover stands a chance of being saved as it is still alive,” he said.
Rest in peace, Yutu. A month into its mission on the moon, China’s lunar rover has been declared dead, suffering mechanical problems that scientists believe were triggered by the frigid lunar nights.
Yutu, which means Jade Rabbit in Chinese, landed on the moon Dec. 14 for a three-month mission, but problems arose on the second lunar night, Jan. 25, when the rover failed to go into hibernation. Though the Chinese were able to communicate with the Chang’e-3 lander, on which Yutu traveled to reach the moon, it said efforts to restore function to the rover were unsuccessful, leading to a mass mourning on Chinese social networks.
Temperatures on the moon can fluctuate between 90 degrees Celsius in the day to below 180 degrees Celsius at night. China hasn’t released further details about Yutu’s abrupt death, but it’s speculated that abrasive lunar dust could have been a factor.
China and India have put renewed focus on moon exploration, with both countries aiming to land astronauts in 2024 and 2020, respectively. Google’s Lunar X Prize has created a space race of its own by promising $30 million to the first private company that successfully lands and operates a rover on the moon. The competition is set to wrap up at the end of 2015.