China has restored communications with its lunar rover Yutu. Contact was lost during the two-week cold moonlit night and the vehicle appeared lost, but with Yutu showing signs of life, he may be able to function normally again.
“Yutu has come back to life,” a spokesman for the Chinese space agency told the Chinese state medium Xinhua. According to him, the moon rover went into sleep mode under abnormal circumstances, but there is a chance that the vehicle can continue to function now that contact has been restored.
Lunar rover Yutu – Chinese for “jade rabbit” and named after the pet of an ancient Chinese goddess – landed on the lunar surface in December 2013, but faced difficulties entering the lunar night, which lasts 14 days and with temperatures up to – 140 degrees Celsius drops. Among other things, the solar panel was not properly folded over the instruments, so that the systems were less protected against the cold.
Last Monday, scientists were unable to restore communications, leading to fears that the rover would have been abandoned and caught in the cold. That fear now seems unfounded. Engineers from the Chinese Space Agency are now investigating what went wrong with the mechanical controls.
The lunar rover is to analyze the soil structure and geological composition of the lunar surface, possibly to give China an idea of whether there are useful minerals to be extracted. It is China’s first lunar rover and the first vehicle to move on the lunar surface in 40 years.