China’s moon rover that moved between 100-110 metres before stalling in late January owing to a mechanical failure is awake but still immobile.
Yutu, or ‘Jade Rabbit’, has stopped hopping. But its ears are still twitching — and communicating with earth, said a report in the scientific journal Nature.
Yutu may never move more than the 100-110 metres it has already travelled from its landing site — in the Mare Imbrium.
Mission officials had earlier hoped that Yutu would travel to the rim of a nearby crater and explore it but a mechanical failure in Yutu’s drive system has stilled the rover since late January.
“The rover has already used its ground-penetrating radar to probe the structure of the lunar soil more than 100 metres deep. Those data are still being processed,” informed Chinese scientists at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, this week.
Early results from the rover’s alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer also hint at the chemical composition of the landing site.
A presentation led by scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing showed that the instrument analysed the chemical makeup of lunar soil at two locations.
It spotted expected major chemical elements such as magnesium, aluminium, silicon, potassium and calcium.
Much of the purpose of having a rover is lost, though, if Yutu can no longer gather data from different areas, the report added.
“We were hoping to see more of the Chinese lunar data at the conference,” said Alexander Basilevsky, a lunar geologist at the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry in Moscow.