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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2/14/2014 12:11:21 PM
Exactly. Regardless of whether Yutu is now fully functional or not, the plain fact is it is the most advanced robot on the moon. Whether it does or doesn't live out its three months of intended life isn't really the point, the point is it got there, it landed, and it worked, and that proves China's technology is amongst the best in the world.
With the moon having such a harsh environment, then it could well be the safest way of exploring the moon is with robots. As we saw with Apollo 13, if something does go wrong way out there, there is little hope of a rescue mission getting there to help. At least when a robot that dies, we don't feel the need to hold a funeral.
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