China's Moon Rover "Yutu" is Dead
February 12, 2014 1:40 PM
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Extreme temperatures killed it
RIP lunar rover
, China's lunar rover Yutu -- also called Jade Rabbit -- was pronounced dead this week, ending its three-month mission to the moon earlier than expected.
The cause of death was exposure to extreme temperatures, as a malfunction prevented Yutu from protecting its sensitive systems through the moon's daytime highs and nighttime lows.
Yutu made its way to the moon
December 14, 2013 when it hitched a ride from China's Chang'e-3 lander. Yutu successfully entered hibernation mode the first lunar night, where a mast folds down and a radioactive heat source protect delicate instruments. A solar panel is also angled towards the point where the sun will rise, which keeps up Yutu's power levels.
It's important to note that a lunar night lasts for half of each Earthly month. Also, surface temperatures fluctuate from daytime highs of 90 °C to below -180 °C.
The second lunar night came January 25, and while the lander successfully went into hibernation, Yutu was unable to enter the sleep mode crucial for protecting itself from the dangerous temperatures.
Yutu [SOURCE: Universe Today]
All China could do was wait until the new lunar day, which began Monday. It's impossible to communicate with Yutu during a lunar night.
As it turns out, Yutu couldn't handle the temperature fluctuations, and was declared dead this week.
China's space agency believes lunar dust might've caused the malfunction, since the grains have sharp edges capable of interrupting Yutu's daily operations.
Back in 2011, China released a paper that described China's five-year plan, which consisted of the construction of
, space laboratories, ship freighters and a manned spaceship.
China said it planned to use probes to explore the moon's surface as well as asteroids, planets and the sun. A spacecraft will also be used to study black holes and celestial bodies close to Earth. Space debris will be studied as well in an effort to create systems that protect spacecraft from such debris.
added that China hopes to improve launch vehicles, meteorological satellites, communications and broadcasting to form a global satellite navigation system.
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RE: Interesting failure.
2/12/2014 4:05:30 PM
Mars has a 24 hour, 37 minute day meaning the long cold soak never happens. It also has an atmosphere which means the temperatures don't fluctuate nearly as much and makes it easier to mechanical parts lubricated. An atmosphere also means the dust grains are eroded into smoother shapes, more like regular sand or dust compared to moon dust which is extremely sharp edged and tends to cause all kinds of problems.
In other words, the Mars rovers avoid all of those problems be virtue of being on Mars. Not to say that mars doesn't present it's own challenges of course.
Less pedantically, when NASA spacecraft and rovers are put into extreme cold environments they typically rely on the heat of a slug of plutonium undergoing decay to keep them warm. It looks like they had issues with communication before the night hit so that they couldn't get the rover totally into sleep mode, which then caused the final failure.
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