02/12/2014 05:49 pm ET

China's Moon Rover May Be Dead


Poor rabbit.

China's lunar rover -- known as the "Jade Rabbit" (or "Yutu" in Chinese) -- is dead, state media reported Wednesday. The rover experienced mechanical problems late last month and never recovered.

Though engineers worked to resolve the issues, the rover "could not be restored to full function," Agence France-Presse reported. And low temperatures on the lunar surface may have had something to do with the rover's early demise.

As New Scientist reported, China's Chang'e-3 lunar lander and the Jade Rabbit successfully "hibernated" for the first lunar night, which is equivalent to half a month on Earth, in order to escape the extreme cold. Surface temperatures on the moon range from extreme hot to bitter cold. Under the worst conditions, temperatures on the moon can plummet to minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit.

But the rover reportedly failed to enter hibernation on Jan. 25 for the second lunar night. When rover operators attempted to communicate with the Jade Rabbit on Monday, they were unsuccessful. It seems the rover, which touched down on the moon in mid-December, is calling it quits early in the midst of its three-month mission.

As China's first lunar rover, the Jade Rabbit was a major asset for the country's rapidly advancing space program. China is the third nation to send a rover to the moon. The U.S. and the former Soviet Union also achieved the feat.

China's space agency has yet to release a statement.



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