Is China's Lunar Dream Over Already?
When the Chang'e-3 lander touched down on the moon last month, it made history with the first successful soft-landing on the moon's surface since 1974. Chang'e-3 and the Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover it carried was cause for celebration across China and the world as the exploration of the Moon's surface was once more bumped up to the forefront of scientific discussion. However, this excitement ground to an abrupt halt over the weekend when the Jade Rabbit experienced what has been described as a "mechanical control abnormality".
Powered by solar energy, Jade Rabbit, was entering a period of dormancy as it prepared to ride out the 'lunar night' that would shade it from the sun's rays for over 2 weeks. The problems arose on Saturday 25th January just as the Chang'e-3 team were planning repairs and procedures for the rover's 14 day slumber. State officials said that the problems likely came about because of the moon's "complicated lunar surface environment."
While it is not yet clear if the control issues are mission-ending, many commentators have been surprised by China's candor during this, the first major bump in the road to their exploration of space. People from around the world tweeted messages of support to the rover and its team as they awaited news of the rover's issues.
China's Chang'e missions will eventually see a further 2 lunar rover's sent to the moon, culminating in around 2kg's of lunar samples being returned to Earth in 2017.