Tags: jade | rabbit | lives | chinese | lunar | rover

Jade Rabbit Lives! Chinese Lunar Rover Is Still Limping Along

Thursday, 13 Feb 2014 09:54 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Jade Rabbit, China’s lunar rover, has survived another night despite having malfunctioned previously, China’s state media announced Thursday.

"The rover stands a chance of being saved as it is still alive," Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for China's lunar probe program told the official news agency Xinhua, the Agence France-Presse reported.

On Monday, Xinhua reported that attempts by the military-run space program to restore the vehicle to full functionality had been unsuccessful.

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Though China has yet to release information as to what is causing the malfunction, Morris Jones, an Australia-based independent space expert, told the AFP that the problem involved a solar panel on the rover failing to close.

"This allowed heat to escape from the rover in the cold lunar night," Jones said. "The cold has probably damaged some parts of the rover permanently, but it seems that some parts are still working."

Many observers feared the rover would have difficulty surviving the extreme cold during the 14-day lunar nights when by design it goes dormant.

The Yutu moon rover, which means "Jade Rabbit," was launched into space on Dec. 2 as part of China's first moon rover mission, highlighting the nation's ambitious space program which includes sending humans to the moon and establishing a permanent space station by 2020.

The rover's name comes from Chinese mythology in which the goddess of the moon, Chang'e, has a pet named Yutu.

China's Jade Rabbit rover will follow in the footsteps of the United States and former Soviet Union, which landed on the moon decades ago, only it will be tasked with exploring the moon's surface and searching for natural resources.

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While China focuses on the moon, the United States has successfully landed four rovers on Mars, two of which are still active and have recently found evidence that life-friendly fresh water once pooled on the red planet's surface, Reuters reported.

Designed to travel approximately 660 feet per hour, the Jade Rabbit can climb 30 degree slopes, according to the Shanghai Aerospace Systems Engineering Research Institute.

Since 2003, China has sent 10 astronauts into space as part f its ambitious space program, in addition to two unmanned probes to orbit the moon in 2007 and 2010.

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