China's Jade Rabbit Rover May Be Doomed On The Moon
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It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.
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And I'm Robert Siegel. China's new moon rover, the Jade Rabbit, may be dead. It had been having mechanical problems and that may have exposed the rabbit to the moon's evening chill. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, during its brief life, the rover became a celebrity.
GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: China made headlines when its lander reached the moon in December, but hours later, the lander lowered Jade Rabbit onto the lunar surface and the rover stole the show.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And there is applause. The rover has officially stepping on its working side.
BRUMFIEL: On the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, an unofficial first-person account began chronicling the its adventures, as it drove in a circle around the lander and used instruments to study the lunar soil. Then late last week, the little rabbit got into trouble.
EMILY LAKDAWALLA: Well, we don't exactly know what happened, there's not a lot of detail.
BRUMFIEL: Emily Lakdawalla is a blogger with the Planetary Society, a nonprofit that supports space exploration. The rover was preparing for the lunar night time, which lasts for two weeks. It was supposed to fold up to shield its delicate electronics from the cold. That didn't happen and now, Lakdawalla says, exposed, its circuitry is done for.
LAKDAWALLA: It'll just break, it will physically break because of the incredibly cold temperature, and there's no way to fix that.
BRUMFIEL: The rover's untimely demise is making a lot of people sad inside China and out. But Lakdawalla says it doesn't diminish the huge success of the mission and she thinks the Jade Rabbit's life, however brief, has energized the Chinese.
LAKDAWALLA: The Chinese public, you know, rather than being disappointed by this are emboldened by it. Once you've tasted a little bit of success in space exploration you want to do more, you want to achieve greater things. And it's nice to see that spirit taking off.
BRUMFIEL: The rover's last, unofficial words translated "Goodnight Earth". Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.