back to article China's Jade Rabbit moon rover might have DIED in the NIGHT after 'abnormality'

China's moon rover, the Jade Rabbit, could be going gently into that good night after experiencing a "mechanical control abnormality". State news agency Xinhua reported the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence as saying that the rover was having trouble due to the "complicated lunar …

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  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

    ALIENS!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

      Yep they were getting too close to the alien base clearly!

      1. Euripides Pants

        Re: alien base

        Moon Nazis, surely. They're still mining the helium 3 and won't be ready to attack until 2018.

        1. MrT

          Call the cops!

          Anyone checked the area for donuts?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

        Typical made in China reliability then...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

      Call a space craft after a brand of vibrator and fail to use Duracells will ultimately lead to failure and dis-satisfaction.

    3. Cliff

      Mandatory

      http://xkcd.com/695/

      :,-(

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: Mandatory

        NO! xkcd/695 is reserved for higher honors.

        While we can and should applaud Jade Rabbit, this in no way matches the plucky perserverance of Spirit. If Jade Rabbit had lasted years beyond its planned mission before succumbing to the harsh lunar environment, then OK.

        If we ever establish a long-term human presence on Mars, one of the early missions should be to retrieve Spirit and Opportunity so that they may be brought home to well deserved Heroes' Welcome.

    4. JEDIDIAH
      FAIL

      Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

      Nah. You know everything made in China is crap...

    5. Tchou
      Coat

      Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

      An alien is probably holding it wrong

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

        Turns out it was just a smegging garbage pod...

    6. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
      Happy

      Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

      Quagaars!!

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

      Those aliens sure love rabbit stew.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yutu be or not to be....

    Oh no, did Elmer J Fudd finally shoot the poor wabbit?

    1. JeevesMkII

      Re: Yutu be or not to be....

      Marvin the Martian, surely.

      1. jai

        Re: Yutu be or not to be....

        but where's the kaboom? there's supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!

        1. VinceH

          Re: Yutu be or not to be....

          No boom today.

          Boom tomorrow.

          There's always a boom tomorrow.

          BOOM!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover "Made in China"

    nuff said.

    1. James Hughes 1

      How about "Beagle - made in Britain!"

      Oh.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What you mean to say is 'Designed and Made in China'.

        Obviously a poor copy.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Considering...

      ...that american quality control resulted in a bunch of losses (launch and failure to arrive at target) and the deaths of 3 people on the pad at about the same stage, I think the quality control deficiencies par for the course. Space is remarkably hard on equipment (-200C in the shade, + 200C in the sunlight for starters. Those kinds of thermal gradients cause major mechanical stresses)

      Even the russians managed to trash their lunar rovers fairly quickly.

      It's only in the last 15 years that western launchers have achieved decent reliability and we've been doing it since the 1950s (I don't see Britain or the EU going to the moon anytime soon. Brazil and India will both be there first - and trading with the chinese moon colony)

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Devil

        Re: Considering...

        China also has the benefit of 50 years worth of experience of other nations and the intervening improvements in technology. The US and Soviets were making this stuff up as they went along and doing it with tech older than you are.

      2. veeguy

        Re: Considering...

        All China is doing is replicating publicly available ( or purloined ) technology. They are breaking no new ground. They survive by copying others work then *still* produce inferior junk. To compare the Apollo launch pad deaths to this FAIL is to compare a Chinese knock off Mickey Mouse watch to a Rolex Submariner. Yes the original may have had teething problems but China can't even make a quality copy.

        1. Stuart Van Onselen

          Re: Considering...

          It's not that simple.

          1) AFAIK, the blueprints for Apollo are not public domain. Some are available, some aren't. Others have been lost forever.

          2) Even with the blueprints, you'd need the original engineers if you want to re-create something so complex. That's part of the reason that NASA was working on a whole new launch system rather than just making a copy of Apollo with some improvements

          3) Even once you have a complete and perfect design, you still need the industrial base to create the parts. And since practically every nut and bolt will need to be a custom piece, you'll need a lot of new factories to build everything.

          4) Space is nasty and dangerous. Accidents will happen. Stuff will break. Lessons will be learned.

          In short, this was still a major achievement by the Chinese. Calling this set-back a capitalised-FAIL is hyperbole.

          1. Thorne Kontos 1

            Re: Considering...

            Let me know when they "FAIL" on Mars...

            1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
              Pint

              I ATEN'T DEAD!

              Yutu might recover, lets keep our fingers crossed. A few comments to those trashing the Chinese effort:

              1. I personally have yet to put anything on the moon, so therefore, I feel I am in no position to criticise their effort.

              2. If you have achieved anything similar, and you know what the reason for the failure is, then I am sure you have something interesting to contribute, please do so!

              3. "Simply copying" technology is rather harder than people think. Many think it is as easy as the copy-paste method of writing essays many students try (and all too frequently get away with).

              4. Lunar dust is very, very nasty stuff. I have seen how very fine desert sand can get into anything and foul up even very well-built camera equipment. Lunar dust is worse.

              5. The mission has been a pretty decent success so far: they landed successfully, they managed to get the lander working well in a very hostile environment, and they got good data and some nice images to boot. I'll drink to that any time

      3. Wzrd1

        Re: Considering...

        What is really funny is, how many here consider it a quality control issue.

        It could as easily be one of the same type of glitches that everyone else gets in their space missions.

        The last thing they want to ever do is reboot, it's a case of "What if the damned thing doesn't boot up again?".

        Of course, it could also be that the mechanical hand got stuck while trying to give a three finger salute.

      4. Tchou
        Holmes

        Re: Considering...

        EU and ESA may not go to the moon, but they fly to Mars orbit and will attempt a comet landing in a few months...

    3. NomNomNom

      scrolling down looking to downvote the inevitable racist comment

      yes found it

      (although maybe it's a parody..nuff said? hmm difficult to tell)

  4. Zee_SS

    Necessary?

    Superfluous anthropomorphism. It just comes off weird and more than a little patronising, unless it was a response to a question from a 6-year-old. It does sound sad though.

    Summarized in headlines around the world:

    'Battery-powered rabbit creates warm feeling inside Chinese population'

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Necessary?

      Superfluous anthropomorphism OR they have the little Chinese guy from Oceans11 sitting in the thing driving it.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: Necessary?

        It's not even kawaii enough to be a good copy of a Japanese Chibi Moe Spacerobot (with or without schoolgirl attendance).

        Come on , China, get a grip!

    2. James O'Shea

      Re: Necessary?

      "'Battery-powered rabbit creates warm feeling inside Chinese population'"

      It's solar powered, not battery powered. If it was battery powered we wouldn't have the problem. We'd have a different problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Necessary?

        “Ignorance is the night of the mind, a night without moon or star” – Confucius

        "Sarcastic humor apparently escapes you faster than it takes a Jade Rabbit to die on moon" - NotConfucius

    3. xperroni

      Re: Necessary?

      It does sound sad though.

      Did anyone else feel like an utter fool, reading this obviously made-up slush – and yet forcing back tears that threaten to well up any moment now?

      Because I totally didn't. Not me, uh-huh.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Necessary?

        "Did anyone else feel like an utter fool, reading this obviously made-up slush – and yet forcing back tears that threaten to well up any moment now?"

        I think they may have gotten the idea from old Readers Digest "I am Michael's Gall Bladder etc."

    4. TheRealRoland
      Coat

      Re: Necessary?

      I'm sure it's all that 'Hop'e Chang'e' stuff ;-)

      Hop'e -> hoppy? geddit? No?... hm...

      The one with the thermal lining in it, please.

  5. cray74

    Learning Curve

    Considering the number of soft landing probes that the USA and USSR slammed into the moon or had malfunction in some unexpected way, China's first-time success in a lunar soft landing and getting a rover cleanly deployed is impressive. That's just a lot of untested engineering and variable to go wrong. It'd be a fairy tale ending to have Jade Rabbit achieve everything the designers and be the next methusaleh rover after Opportunity, but more realistic to figure something will go wrong on the first try.

    Hopefully the Chinese will have enough telemetry to learn from the problem and avoid it with the next rover. Engineering mysteries are annoying.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Learning Curve

      I've heard this reasoning a few times and its not really accurate. You have to remember that back at the times of the initial Moon landings by the US and the USSR, the nations were in a space race due to the cold war, and in a war situation, you have pretty much all the money you need to defeat the enemy, so sending up something that will "probably" work was considered acceptable if it meant you got there ahead of the commie buggers/capitalists pigs (delete as approppriate). Additionally, the concept of quality control really only got introduced towards the end of the space race (when you will have noticed success rates of missions climbing substantially).

      These days, space agencies survive on minimal funding, so you cant just lob something into space in the hope it will work, you have to be sure it will work, so huge amounts of testing are done beforehand to try to account for every possible failure. Failures still happen (you cant catch everything!), but a lot less happen now than in the past.

      I write this, not to belittle the chinese effort, but to point out that the success rate of all modern space agencies is astonishing considering the restrictions they are under and the science they are trying to achieve. I have every confidence that the Chinese will get some very nice data from the Jade Rabbit, not everything might work, but I guarantee that those things that do work will be used to perform great science.

    2. Charles Manning

      Space != reliability

      There are basically 2 approaches to space exploration:

      * Send humans. Nobody wants the bad PR when people get killed, so reliability has to be really high. They have to come back. Humans are heavy and need air, food, etc which makes for huge payload. All very challenging, slows down progress and extremely expensive.

      * Send robots. It's a bloody machine. If it dies, so what, send another. They don't have to come back. They can have unlimited missions if they don't break. Allows far more rapid experimentation. Way cheaper; five robot missions is cheaper than one manned mission so you can afford to make a few craters.

      The Russians figured this out in the 1960s. Only 50% or so of their moon missions actually worked, but that was ok. The win some, loose some attitude allowed far more rapid progress.

      1. Number6

        Re: Space != reliability

        Sendnig the chief beancounter along on a manned mission would probably vastly improve its reliability, alrthough it would cost a bit more.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Space != reliability

          How exactly will beancounter mannage improve a space expedition?

          1. James O'Shea

            Re: Space != reliability

            "How exactly will beancounter mannage improve a space expedition?"

            Ballast. When (not if) things get sticky you can throw him over the side and no-one will care.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Space != reliability

            Isn't that obvious?

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZgD89VYkVc

          3. Number6

            Re: Space != reliability

            How exactly will beancounter mannage improve a space expedition?

            Self-interest. Go look up the quote about John Glenn who, when he was asked what he was thinking when in space, answered that he was considering the fact that all the equipment around him was made by the lowest bidder.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Space != reliability

        "Send robots. It's a bloody machine. If it dies, so what, send another. They don't have to come back. They can have unlimited missions if they don't break. Allows far more rapid experimentation. Way cheaper; five robot missions is cheaper than one manned mission so you can afford to make a few craters."

        This is precisely the attitude that is going to get us into trouble when robots become self aware...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Space != reliability

          Just send Chinese people - there are at least a billion to spare...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Learning Curve

      So their hacking skills truly do suck (proven by the fact they couldn't steal an American design that actually works)... oh, and btw, still waiting to see that aircraft carrier in action...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Learning Curve

        I see the Chinese readership has chimed in...

  6. jai

    Goodnight Earth. Goodnight humans

    that reminds me of a PWEI song

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Goodnight Earth. Goodnight humans

      Probably not the song you were thinking of, but I've now got PWEI's Beaver Patrol looping around in my brain. Altogether now:

      "My favourite way of getting kicks is go down town and hussle chicks ... BEAVER PATROL!"

      1. jai

        Re: Goodnight Earth. Goodnight humans

        LOL

        yeah it was Def Con One i was thinking of: "Goodbye city, hello Moon!"

        But if we ever get around to making another golden disc with the best examples of human culture and sending it out amongst the stars, then Beaver Patrol should definitely be on there :)

      2. Crisp

        Re: Beaver Patrol

        Thanks to you Mr Wareham, I've now got Two Beavers are Better Than One in my head.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Now my masters are hard at work thinking of ways to fix me"

    Shouldn't masters be replaced with comrades?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Marx drew a clear distinction between man and other species, so it's arguable that Marx would have considered neither another species or a machine like Jade Rabbit as on the same level as humans. Therefore, it would be consistent with the writings of Marx to consider Jade Rabbit as a tool and therefore not an equal or comrade to its human operators.

      I know - I need to get out more. Hence why I'm getting my coat.

      1. jai

        didn't K-9 always refer to The Doctor and his companions by Master and Mistress?

        K-9, everyone's lovable metallic dog, was a Marxist???

        :)

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          This reactionary drive will get you nowhere!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Of course - he was a BBC employee after all...

  8. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

    Well.....

    KAFRIGGINGBLOODYBOOM!

    There.

    Better?

  9. madmalc

    Goodbye little friend

    Sniff!

    If you can call a machine 5' wide "little"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    So what is the exact problem?

    The mission team needs to position the Jade Rabbit and its solar panels for a good recharge after the lunar night, but they can't position it correctly due to this control problem?

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: So what is the exact problem?

      You will need to ask the Chinese for the reason. Good luck!

    2. Tom Womack

      Re: So what is the exact problem?

      The impression I have is that the motors for folding up the solar panels into the heated part of the vehicle are broken; so they will freeze up during the night and stop working.

      1. Grikath

        Re: So what is the exact problem?

        Could be anything. The moon is a harsh mistress after all. My 50 cents are on the moondust having done its job on the little rabbit. That stuff is nasty..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So what is the exact problem?

          Yup last try I had a sniff of "Lunar dust" I was out dead cold for 72 hours having dreams of frolicking jade rabbits calling me "master".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what is the exact problem?

      I'm sure my gf could help them. She is very experienced at putting a Rabbit where the sun doesn't shine...

  11. Beachrider

    Lunokhod had a similar approach...

    The Soviet-era Lunokhod rover had a similar mech. They folded their Solar panels back to the machine so that internal warming (it was nuclear warmth in Lunokhod) kept it operational.

    Remember, this device never loses 'sight' of the Earth, it just loses 'sight' of the Sun.

    One of those Lunokhods actually ran for a REALLY long time. It still holds the record for total-distance-driven for a non-Earth rover.

  12. P0l0nium

    If they were REAL communists ...

    "Proper" communists would be having a witch-hunt to find the "saboteur" by now...

    Like Beria used to after Soviet atomic bomb test 'fizzles'.

  13. Captain DaFt

    Staggering implications here!

    If the rabbit has died... Does that mean the Moon is pregnant?

  14. Mark Allen
    Alien

    Throwing Rocks...

    Are you sure that someone hasn't thrown a rock at it? The same rock thrower who is throwing rocks at Opportunity?

    There are some aliens out there trying to wind people up...

  15. Vociferous

    This calls for a conspiracy theory!

    Clearly the Chinese rover was silenced because it came too close to the soundstage where they faked the Apollo moon landing!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Re: This calls for a conspiracy theory!

      It probably just collided with the soundstage wall, Truman-style. :)

    2. dssf

      Re: This calls for a conspiracy theory! Calls for a Spoonerism...

      Did it go to sleep because it is on the dark side of the Moon,

      Or was it damaged/destroyed because it is on the marked side of the dune?

      1. Tank boy

        Re: This calls for a conspiracy theory! Calls for some Pink Floyd...

        "Did it go to sleep because it is on the dark side of the Moon"

        There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    Lol.

    Made in China.

  17. dssf

    Next time, to prove there are aliens up there....

    Send TWO vehicles:

    -- one lunar, roving around

    -- one orbital, to keep an eye on the eclipsed rover

    Even if the rover cannot communicate, at least the orbiter can watch it. But, if the orbiter goes dark, too.. One's a mistake. Two, probably suspicious...

    If these rovers someday are on short treks, maybe a pre-lander array of tethers-and-reels could be set up.

    -- Sprinkle semi-self mobile reel machines that beacon along the rover's PIM (Path of Intended Movement)

    -- Rover operates in a mission box

    -- If failures in the rover seem repetitive, sent the recovery-reels to "snag-and-drag" the rover back to a lit area, or to at least provide it power and heat.

    These snag-and-drag device, though, might need to be nuclear, and would be expensive, possibly prohibitively. But, I'm just throwing darts, on the assumption the rover may be valuable, and might have onboard some data it collecgted but was unable to transmit.

    If aliens or hostile powers are involved, then all bets are off for certain.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Next time, to prove there are aliens up there....

      "Send TWO vehicles:

      -- one lunar, roving around

      -- one orbital, to keep an eye on the eclipsed rover"

      But the orbiting one will have to be in geosynchronous (Selenesynchronous??) orbit or "they" will just wait 'till the orbiter is over the horizon for the main event.

  18. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The Moon is indeed a harsh mistress

    And the Chinese are masters at propaganda. It's possible that there are indeed mechanical issues relating to the solar panel drives. It's also possible that the Chinese are doing a PR type stunt: " we have problems.. great scientists and leaders working day and night to solve". Two weeks later: "Great leader and scientists have solved the problems and Jade Rabbit has been saved". Followed by massive cheering and spontaneous demonstrations of gratitude.

    Or the dust and the cold got to the beast. Possibly even a micrometeorite.

    On the reality side, they did a tough thing. They landed a probe and got it to work. No crashes, no miscalculations involving meters/feet, no "oh crap.. wrong place to land". Kudos to them on getting it there and landing in one piece.

  19. NomNomNom

    just like watership down

  20. wsm

    Go to the dark side...

    ...then blame it on the moon.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the rover was having trouble due to the "complicated lunar surface environment"."

    "What the Christ is this shit!? It's like we're on the fucking moon or something!"

  22. veeguy

    I'm betting...

    I can't say for sure, but I'm betting the air tank for the midget went empty.

  23. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Lack of a good radioistope heater perhaps?

    SOP on space probe where things can get a bit nippy are little tiny heat sources, usually (IIRC) of Pu.

    Their only purpose is to generate the very small amounts of heat needed to keep various critical hardware just warm enough from failing.

    It's a small, carefully engineered and very niche product with a few suppliers world wide.

    And I don't think any of them are in China.

    Mine's the one with the "NeverFail (TM)" perpetual hand warmer in the side pocket and the Geiger counter in the other.

  24. alpine

    Dry bearings?

    Oh, a mechanical anomaly?. More of those Chinese bearings they always ship unlubricated for some reason I suppose...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    U2 = Yutu trademark violation?

    Yutu needs permission from itunes to run its software.

  26. fedoraman
    Stop

    Scenario

    As the rover has radio isotope heater units, I would surmise the following. Firstly, you don't want them heating the rover during lunar day, so you isolate them or shunt the heat away from your internal electronics. During lunar night, you do want that heat, so you reconfigure somehow to keep it inside the rover. I guess that this change-over from day to night-mode hasn't gone smoothly, due possibly to a stuck valve, actuator or something, caused by vacuum cementing, lunar dust, the thermal stress of the day/night cycle - take your pick

  27. Number6

    Say Cheese

    It turns out that the moon is not made of green cheese, it's made of Swiss cheese and the rabbit fell down a hole.

  28. Robert Helpmann??
    Childcatcher

    Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humans.

    Goodnight, rabbit hopping on the moon.

    (with apologies to Margaret Wise Brown)

  29. MarkmBha1

    Trust the Chinese

    Trust the Chinese to put a "human touch" on a machine!

  30. EPurpl3

    Oh man, this is beautiful, makes me want to cry, lol

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