Jade Rab­bit awakes from nap on moon

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI from China Daily and WANG CONG from Xin­hua

China’s lu­nar rover Yutu has wo­ken up af­ter its sec­ond pe­riod of dor­mancy was haunted by me­chan­i­cal prob­lems, though en­gi­neers are still striv­ing to solve the ab­nor­mal­ity.

“Yutu has been awake and we have re­ceived sig­nals from it,” Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for China’s lu­nar ex­plo­ration pro­gram, said on Thurs­day. “The rover has re­sumed the con­di­tion it was in be­fore the sec­ond dor­mancy, but prob­lems still re­main.”

Yutu, or Jade Rab­bit, was named af­ter the pet of a lu­nar god­dess in an­cient Chi­nese mythol­ogy. It was de­signed to roam the lu­nar sur­face to sur­vey the moon’s ge­o­log­i­cal struc­ture and sur­face sub­stances

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en­gi­neers wor­ried that it might have failed to en­dure the ex­tremely low tem­per­a­ture dur­ing the lu­nar night.” PEI ZHAOYU SPOKESMAN FOR CHINA’S LU­NAR EX­PLO­RATION PRO­GRAM

and look for nat­u­ral re­sources. It was ex­pected to work on the moon for at least three months af­ter it landed in mid-De­cem­ber.

But the 140- kg, sixwheeled rover en­tered dor­mancy in an ab­nor­mal state on Jan 25 as the lu­nar night fell, Pei said.

“Our en­gi­neers wor­ried that it might have failed to en­dure the ex­tremely low tem­per­a­ture dur­ing the lu­nar night,” he said. “But it fi­nally came back. At least it is still alive.”

One night on the moon is about 14 days on Earth, dur­ing which the tem­per­a­ture falls be­low mi­nus 180 C. Dur­ing the lu­nar night, there is no sun­light to pro­vide power to Yutu’s so­lar panel.

Pei added the moon rover has now been re­stored to its nor­mal sig­nal re­cep­tion func­tion. But ex­perts are still work­ing to ver­ify the cause of its me­chan­i­cal con­trol ab­nor­mal­ity.

The ab­nor­mal­ity oc­curred due to the “com­pli­cated lu­nar sur­face en­vi­ron­ment”, ac­cord­ing to an ear­lier state­ment re­leased by the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and In­dus­try for Na­tional De­fense, which over­sees the na­tion’s space pro­gram. It did not give fur­ther de­tails.

“When Yutu was un­der­go­ing tests on Earth, en­gi­neers set up a lab­o­ra­tory in a desert to sim­u­late the rig­or­ous en­vi­ron­ment on the moon and the rover has passed nu­mer­ous tough tests,” said Wang Ya’nan, deputy ed­i­torin-chief at Aero­space Knowl­edge mag­a­zine.

“The pub­lic should un­der­stand that space ex­plo­ration is full of un­cer­tain­ties and pos­si­bil­i­ties,” he added. “Among the 130 lu­nar probe ac­tiv­i­ties per­formed by hu­mans dur­ing the past 50 some years, nearly half of them failed.”

Wang said that dif­fi­cul­ties could some­times en­rich sci­en­tists’ knowl­edge and im­prove tech­nolo­gies.

“I think China’s lu­nar pro­gram is pro­gress­ing steadily and smoothly and its tech­nolo­gies are re­li­able. Some mi­nor dif­fi­cul­ties can’t di­min­ish its suc­cess.”

Chi­nese sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers had pre­pared for un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tions long be­fore Chang’e-3 landed on the moon.

“We made more than 200 plans to re­spond to any pos­si­ble emer­gency and they cover each step of the mis­sion,” Wu Weiren, chief de­signer of China’s lu­nar probe sys­tem, told China Daily ear­lier.

The Chang’e-3 lu­nar probe soft-landed on the moon on Dec 14, mak­ing China the third coun­try to suc­cess­fully soft-land on the moon af­ter the United States and the Soviet Union.

Sev­eral hours af­ter the land­ing, Yutu sep­a­rated from the lan­der and be­gan to con­duct its tasks, in­clud­ing an­a­lyz­ing ma­jor el­e­ments on the lu­nar sur­face and study­ing min­eral re­sources of the ce­les­tial body.

Chang’e-3 is part of the sec­ond phase of China’s lu­nar pro­gram, which in­cludes or­bit­ing, land­ing and re­turn­ing to the Earth. It fol­lows the suc­cess of the Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 mis­sions in 2007 and 2010. Con­tact the writer at zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn. Tian Ye con­trib­uted to this story.

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