To be fair, China’s Yutu rover, or Jade Rabbit, isn’t dead yet. It’s just unlikely to survive the lunar night due to a malfunction. Since discovering the problem last week, Chinese scientists have remained bleak about the rover’s chances. An update on Thursday reaffirmed that we won’t know for sure whether the little (okay maybe not that little) robot will make it for a few weeks.
As reported by our sister site Geekosystem, Jade Rabbit is built to hibernate during the two week lunar night, a period in which sunlight will not directly fall on it. The temperature in its area of the Moon drops precipitously and there’s nothing for its solar panels to pick up. Unfortunately, due to a mechanical problem, the rover was unable to close its solar panels during this most recent shut down, and that leaves it vulnerable. Geekosystem thoughtfully reminds us that there’s no use nyeah nyeahing when adorably named space robots are on the line:
This is the first time a country other than the U.S. or the Soviet Union has attempted to land on the Moon, as well as the first “soft” Moon landing since 1976. It would be very easy to make some awful jokes about how this represents quality of China’s space program, but we’re not going to do that — mostly those kinds of jokes are usually just a liiiittle bit racist, but also because it’s very hard to put things up in space successfully regardless of how technologically advanced you might consider yourselves. I mean, hey, remember about twenty years ago when we programmed a rover with both metric and imperial measurements and it got so confused that it launched itself into the sun? Our track record as a space-navigating nation is not so great, either.
Jade Rabbit and our most recent space obsession the Curiosity Rover share another thing in common: they’ve both been personified by their own social media accounts. In fact, Jade Rabbit essentially gave a farewell address:
Although I should’ve gone to bed this morning, my masters discovered something abnormal with my mechanical control system. My masters are staying up all night working for a solution. I heard their eyes are looking more like my red rabbit eyes. Nevertheless, I’m aware that I might not survive this lunar night.
If this journey must come to an early end, I am not afraid. Whether or not the repairs are successful, I believe even my malfunctions will provide my masters with valuable information and experience.
The sun has already set here and the temperature is falling very quickly. I’ve said a lot today, yet still feel like it’s not enough. I’ll tell everyone a secret. Actually, I’m not feeling especially sad. Just like any other hero, I’ve only encountered a little problem while on my own adventure.
Good night, planet Earth. Good night, humanity.
Okay, Susana, hold it together.
If I really cannot be fixed, when the time comes, I hope everyone will remember to help me comfort [Chang'e, the spacecraft that deposited Jade Rabbit on the Moon's surface].
Shut up, I’m not crying YOU’RE CRYING.