China’s troubled lunar rover, Yutu, or Jade Rabbit is operating again after malfunctioning a fortnight ago. The rover is reportedly receiving 'normal signals.' The breakdown was a set back for Beijing’s space program.
The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu lunar rover is back up and running after surviving a bitterly cold 14-day lunar night, Chinese officials said on Thursday.
“Yutu has come back to life,” Pei Zhaoyu, a spokesperson for China's lunar exploration program told Chinese state media agency, Xinhua.
The rover's “normal signal reception function” returned on Thursday and scientists were working to identify what caused the mechanics to fail on January 25 when the Jade Rabbit entered “sleep mode” in order to withstand the freezing lunar night, Xinhua also quoted Pei as saying.
Scientists working with the Jade Rabbit were worried the rover may not be able to survive the low lunar night temperatures, when it was supposed to remain dormant.
Hitch attributed to solar panel
Australian-based independent space expert Morris Jones told news agency AFP the problem concerned a solar panel on the rover that failed to close properly.
“This allowed heat to escape from the rover in the cold lunar night. The cold has probably damaged some parts of the rover permanently, but it seems some parts are still working,” he said.
The malfunction was a setback for the country's ambitious military-run space program, which includes a plan to have a permanent space station in operation by 2020.
Several hours after the Chang'e probe landed on the moon's surface on December 14, the Jade Rabbit began its data collection mission. The rover was designed for a three-month space mission to explore the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows.
The lunar rover is named after the pet of Chang'e, a moon goddess in Chinese mythology.
China first sent an astronaut into space more than a decade ago. It is the third country to carry out a lunar rover mission after the US and the former Soviet Union.
jlw/ipj (dpa, afp)