China’s first lunar rover Jade Rabbit, which woke up ten days ago after being declared dead, has entered its third “planned dormancy” even as mechanical issues that might cripple the vehicle still unresolved.
The rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit) in Chinese entered its 14-day dormancy on Saturday, with the mechanical control issues unresolved, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
According to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND), Yutu only carried out fixed point observations during its third lunar day, equivalent to about two weeks on Earth.
Yutu’s radar, panorama camera and infrared imaging equipment are functioning normally, but the control issues that have troubled the rover since January persist.
During the lunar night, when there is no sunlight to power rover’s solar panels, it is expected to stay in a power-off mode and communication with Earth is cut.
Yutu touched down on the moon’s surface on December 15, some hours after lunar probe Chang’e-3 landed.
The rover was designed to roam the lunar surface for at least three months to survey the moon’s geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources.
But problems emerged before the rover entered its second dormancy on the moon on January 25 as the lunar night fell.
According to SASTIND, the mechanic control abnormality occurred due to the “complicated lunar surface”. Experts had feared that it might never function again, but Yutu woke up on February 12, two days behind schedule. The news caused a stir in China’s social networking circles.
The Chang’e-3 lunar probe, which carried Yutu to the moon’s surface, also entered dormancy in the wee hours on Sunday, after carrying out observations of celestial bodies and the Earth’s plasmasphere using its optical telescope and extreme ultraviolet camera.
China is the third country to soft-land on the moon after the United States and the Soviet Union. Chang’e-3 is part of the second phase of China’s lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth.
The country has also sent probes to orbit the moon in 2007 and 2010, the first of which crashed onto the lunar surface at the end of its mission.
According to the SASTIND, the Chang’e-2 has become China’s first man-made asteroid, and is currently 70 million km from the Earth.