The state-run Xinhua newswire in China reports that the Yutu ‘Jade Rabbit’ moon rover has encountered a potentially fatal mechanical problem and, writing from the rovers perspective, bids the earth and all its people a melancholy ‘Goodnight’.
According to Chinese media, the Chinese moon rover Yutu – ”Jade Rabbit” – which has been on the moon’s surface since December 14th of 2013, has suffered a breakdown which could prematurely terminate its three month mission.
In the state run Xinhua newspaper, a report on the problem was written from the perspective of the Jade Rabbit, who explained that, “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.”
“I might not survive this lunar night”, the report continued.
The climate of the moon swings drastically, reaching boiling temperatures in the “day” time when the surface of the moon is exposed to the sun, and plunging as low as -180 degrees Celsius during the nights, which last for fourteen earth days.
The delicate equipment onboard the Yutu space rover can easily be damaged by such frigid temperatures. At night fall, the rover switches into hibernate mode to wait out the cold. During this time it is kept alive by radioisotopic heat sources situated in a box beneath its deck.
Mechanical failure could prevent the heating system from working as intended, causing the craft to literally freeze to death.
In Xinhua’s report Yutu (named for the moon-dwelling rabbit of Chinese legend) said to the Chang’e-3 lander (named for the moon goddess who kept Yutu by her side), “[Chang’e] doesn’t know about my problems yet. If I can’t be fixed, everyone please comfort her.”
The government, perhaps self-conscious of its hastily failing moon program, was sure to note in the Yutu-voiced report, “Before departure, I studied the history of mankind’s lunar probes. About half of the past 130 explorations ended in success; the rest ended in failure.”
“The sun has fallen,” said the robot, “and the temperature is dropping so quickly… to tell you all a secret, I don’t feel that sad. I was just in my own adventure story – and like every hero, I encountered a small problem.”
And in a farewell that will throw even those who don’t share China’s national pride into a conflict between laughter and tears, Yutu concluded, “Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humanity.”