Good News – Yutu Moon Rover Not Dead Yet! UPDATED

The Yutu rover photographed on Dec. 16, 2013 by the Chang’e 3 lander. The rover emerged still alive but ailing after the long lunar night. Credit: CNSA

Earlier today I wrote that the Yutu rover had expired after a malfunction occurred during the storage of one of its solar panels prior to hibernation about two weeks ago. Well, guess what? Turns out, the rover’s not dead yet, to quote a familiar Monty Python song. My sources incorrectly reported that signals had ceased.

Yutu sent a signal picked up by deep space radio enthusiasts at 8462.078 MHz today Feb. 12, 2014. The rover lives! Credit:

According to more recent information on UHF, a website devoted to amateur monitoring of deep space radio signals, a downlink signal from the rover was received today Feb. 12. No other signals have been picked up, so we can’t assess Yutu’s current or future health, but we’ll take the good news for now. The rover may be ailing, but it’s indeed alive. Click the link to read the excited chatter.

For about two weeks a month, the rover and lander store sensitive equipment inside their heated chassis to protect sensitive electronic and computer components from punishing temperatures that can plummet as low as -292 F (-180 F).

The Xinhua News Agency also sent out a brief report translated (roughly) here using Google Translate:

“Little Rabbit situation is getting better, a little longer wake signs, wait. “This is the 25th month since the rabbit into the moonlit reporter first heard positive news.Bunny, come on! Chefs, you have worked hard!” –  Yu Xiaojie

No malfunction has been reported on the Chang’e 3 lander, so we’ll hopefully continue to see data gathered and photos taken during its planned 1-year lifetime.

Photo taken by the Chang’e 3 lander of the lunar landscape with the Yutu rover. I’ve added approximate views of the sun and the Earth as they might have appeared in the lunar sky earlier this week. Credit: CNSA photo with additional illustration using Stellarium by B. King

The lander-rover mission landed on the moon’s Mare Imbrium (Seas of Rains) on Dec. 14, 2013 and was designed for a 3-month mission. The lander is equipped with cameras and a telescope for observation of the sky in ultraviolet light.

For many of us, the Chinese lunar landing mission rekindled the same kind of excitement as the Apollo mission did decades ago. That’s why we’ll remain hopeful that Yutu might get back on its feet (wheels) again soon.

Note: Thanks for Daniel Fischer for his help in sourcing.

5 Responses

  1. Troy

    I didn’t have a chance to respond to your earlier post. I was going to lament that if the Chinese had just put in a nice little RTG to keep the electronics warm during the long lunar night they could give the rover a nice long life and possibly get to the next horizon. I’m glad it is back, but unfortunate how little in high quality images are released. I have to say NASA does a fine job with this, but even ESA is pretty darn slow.

    1. astrobob

      There are heaters in the rover. It apparently didn’t fold down and close up properly, leaving computers, etc. exposed to the cold. You’re right, the Chinese space agency hasn’t been very forthcoming. Really makes you appreciate NASA.

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