China’s Jade Rabbit Moon rover, also known as Yutu, has been busy exploring the Moon’s soil since December, but recently ran into some trouble after experiencing a “mechanical control abnormality”, state media report.
The Moon rover began experiencing problems due to the moon’s “complicated lunar surface environment”, Xinhua news agency said, citing science officials.
The rover first landed on the Moon in December as part of China’s Chang’e-3 mission – the first “soft” landing on the Moon since 1976.
It was expected to operate for around three months per BBC news.
Earlier in January, the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre said that Jade Rabbit had successfully explored the surface of the Moon with its mechanical arm.
The malfunction occurred just before the rover entered its scheduled dormancy period on Saturday, Xinhua reported, citing the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND).
The Jade Rabbit was scheduled to become dormant for 15 days during the lunar night, when there would be no sunlight to power the rover’s solar panel, reports stated.
The malfunctioning rover is the first public mishap China’s ambitious space program has experienced in years, following several highly successful manned space flights, the BBC’s Celia Halton in Beijing reported.
Scientists are organizing repairs, the news agency said, without providing any further details.
Xinhua has said the news of the rover’s troubles has generated much discussion on Chinese social media sites.
“People not only hailed the authority’s openness to the accident, but also expressed concern,” it said.
On Sina Weibo, China’s largest microblog site, users started a hash tag #hang in there Jade Rabbit on their posts.
Referring to a Chinese folktale about a rabbit on the Moon, another microblog user wrote: “Whatever happens, we must thank Jade Rabbit. When our generation tells stories to our children, we can confidently say: ‘There really is a Jade Rabbit on the moon!'”