Monday, January 27, 2014

Jade Rabbit in Trouble

China's Yutu rover has malfunctioned as the long Lunar night begins, a reminder that most of the real estate in the Solar System is cruelly difficult and harshly unforgiving by human standards. I hope they can fix the rover in time, but it will be difficult at that distance: the Moon is a harsh mistress.

The universe is coldly indifferent to your survival, and it isn't going to cooperate in your robot's survival either.

If, as seems likely, Yutu doesn't last the night, I expect the Chinese to react like most humans: "Kill our beloved robot rabbit? Very well. Be that way. We see how it is. We'll be back, with a BETTER RABBIT!"

The universe will remain unimpressed but we will feel better.  And we will be back, with a better rabbit.


Delf said...

According to other reports I read, the problem isn't exactly that it can't hibernate. It's that it wasn't able to furl its solar array, and the open solar array will shade the rest of the rover when the sun returns, preventing it from warming enough to be able to leave hibernation...

Will McLean said...


My understanding is that if the solar arrays don't shift for the night, two bad things happen.

One array is supposed to cover the folded down mast with is antenna and cameras, as well as other components, like the cover of an insulated box.

The other is supposed to be vertical and facing towards the rising sun for maximum power at Lunar dawn.

Neither failure is good, but the first sounds worse.