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Netizens extend blessings to troubled lunar rover

Xinhua News Agency, January 27, 2014 Adjust font size:

Tens of thousands of Chinese netizens have sent their blessings to lunar rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit) after it experienced major trouble.

A mechanical control abnormality occurred to Yutu because of the "complicated lunar surface environment," said China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) on Saturday. Repair work is ongoing.

The news caused a splash on China's social networking circles.

People not only hailed the authority's openness to the accident, but also expressed concern.

By Sunday afternoon, more than 36,000 reposts had been generated under the "yueqiucheyutu" or "lunar rover yutu" account on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter.

The weibo account is believed to belong to space enthusiasts who have been following Yutu's journey to the moon. It has more than 110,000 followers.

Many netizens fear for the troubled rover's destiny.

"You have done a great job Yutu. You have endured extreme hot and cold temperatures and shown us what we have never seen. Hope you get well soon, but no matter what, it is your presence that makes the planet about 390 thousand kilometers away dazzling," wrote "Amaniandlove".

Zhang Yian, a Beijing-based writer, said Yutu has shouldered more than just the hope of China's space industry but also the dreams of the Chinese people. "This is too heavy a burden. If the rabbit can not stand again, maybe we should let it have a rest."

"Tanwie" wrote on weibo, "Space exploration, the more gorgeous a view you see, the more dangerous it can be."

The problem happened just before Yutu was about to begin its second dormancy in the lunar night. One night on the moon is about 14 days on Earth. During this time, the temperature falls below minus 180 Celsius.

The rover has obtained scientific data through its radar, panorama camera, a particle X-ray device and infrared imaging equipment, according to the SASTIND.

The rover was expected to stay on the moon for at least three months after it separated from the Chang'e-3 probe which soft-landed on the moon on Dec. 14.

Saturday also marked the 10th anniversary of rover Opportunity's landing on Mars. A weibo account called "NASAzhongwen" or "Chinese NASA," posted a message on Sina Weibo, wishing Yutu to get well soon.

The account has no official connection with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but it has documented space activities as well as the journey of Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity.

Compared with Opportunity's 10 years on Mars, Yutu's one-month stay is not long. But the occurrence of such an abnormality is normal, said Yang Yuguang, a researcher from China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp., deeming the Chang'e 3 probe mission as one of the most difficult in the country's space exploration.

Human kind has only achieved a 51 percent success rate on lunar probe missions among the 130 in total, according to China's lunar probe program chief designer Wu Weiren, in an earlier interview with Xinhua.

"There is no smooth way ahead. Whether or not we can overcome this difficult situation, it's a big lesson for our lunar exploration research," said Yang.

On Sunday afternoon, messages continued to be posted on Sina Weibo. "Come on little rabbit, you must hang on in there to see the Spring Festival fireworks," wrote "Dourentao".

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