It had been reported that China’s Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”) lunar rover has failed to reactivate and return telemetry signals two days after its second lunar night ended. Responding to these media reports, the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) via China’s media, has denied that the Yutu rover is dead, though it has admitted that the rover is still seriously afflicted. However, it was confirmed that telemetry contact has now been made with the rover. Chinese engineers are now attempting to coax the craft back to an operational condition.
While China originally admitted that their had been an mechanical problem, declining to specify its exact nature, other sources indicated that the problem stemmed from a failure before the two-Earth week long night fell to fold back a solar array which was needed to hold in heat from its radioisotope heaters to protect its electronics. The full details were originally revealed by spacedaily.com
According to reports, China has a back up Yutu rover which will be launched on the Chang’e 4 mission. A Chang’e 5 mission is planned to follow this which will be an unmanned sample return mission from the moon.
Comment by David Todd: The Yutu Rover design (above) apparently has an open electronics bay with no roof – good for cooling in daylight but not so good in a sub-zero lunar night. Hence, that is why the rover needed its solar arrays to fold over to keep its key electronics warm during this period. You can bet that China will put a roof onto its next Yutu despite the mass penalty in doing so. Despite the Yutu lunar rover’s apparently shortened lifespan, China’s space programme deserves to be congratulated. The Chang’E 3/Yutu mission has shown that China can land spacecraft safely on the Moon: one step forward in the race to set Chinese astronauts “Taikonauts” onto the lunar surface before America.