In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer
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 …
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.
...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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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'
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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...
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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
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