After arriving on the moon on December 14, China’s Yutu rover experienced a malfunction in late January, just before hibernating for its second two-week-long lunar night. Yutu seemed to bravely embrace its fate, relaying a message to “comfort” the Chang’e lunar lander, and offering some very down-to-Earth (sorry) philosophy: “About half of the past 130 explorations ended in success; the rest ended in failure. This is space exploration; the danger comes with its beauty. I am but a tiny dot in the vast picture of mankind’s adventure in space.” I couldn’t have put it any better myself, Yutu. Just before the beloved Chinese rover signed off, it relayed the message: “I don’t feel that sad. I was just in my own adventure story – and like every hero, I encountered a small problem…Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humanity.” I never thought I could get choked up over mechanical lunar explorer, but somewhere along the way the “Jade Rabbit” stopped feeling like a machine.
Yutu was supposed to wake up from the lunar night yesterday, but didn’t, prompting the China Daily to report that the rover had indeed died during the frigid two-week period. But anyone who’s ever read or watched science fiction (or Gravity) knows that death may not be a permanent condition. Indeed, late last night UHF-Satcom, a website that monitors cosmic radio signals, detected a faint signal from Yutu. Perhaps the fat lady hasn’t sung after all.