A few weeks ago, China's Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") moon rover looked to be in pretty dire straits. The prognosis wasn't good after a "mechanical control abnormality" prevented the rover from working. Now, state news agency ECNS is reporting the rover "could not be restored to full function."
The Chang'e-3 lunar probe's successful soft landing on the moon on December 14 was a major point of pride for China's space program. Only the United States and the former Soviet Union had previously achieved the feat. The rover was supposed to carry out a three-month mission to study the surface geology of the moon and examine natural resources.
Perhaps partly due to its endearing nickname, the Jade Rabbit had attracted a large public following in China. China's official press agency Xinhua previously reported on the outpouring of support for the rover over social media, with people posting hopeful and encouraging messages. ECNS now reports that followers are mourning on Weibo, a Twitter-style social-media site.
Details on the pronouncement of Yutu's demise are extremely sketchy at this point. Indeed, a report in Chinese newspaper Global Times talks about the rover showing signs of awakening. There may still be a slim chance for the Rabbit's recovery, but it isn't looking good.
(Via New Scientist)