China

Jade Rabbit: China's Moon rover dies

Image taken from Jade Rabbit's official Weibo account Image copyright Weibo
Image caption Jade Rabbit overcame technical problems to become a national icon for China

China's Jade Rabbit has bid its final farewell and shut down after 31 months exploring the Moon, far outliving its expected lifespan.

Jade Rabbit arrived on the Moon in December 2013 in the Chang'e-3 space mission, and has been exploring the surface in search of natural resources.

It made China the third country to reach the Moon after Russia and the US.

It has also been an active social media. Its final message said: "The Moon has prepared a long dream for me."

The rover is named after Yutu, the pet rabbit of the Chinese Moon goddess Chang'e, in turn the namesake of the lunar mission.

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption The official Jade Rabbit Weibo account has shared cute cartoons of its adventures, here arriving on the Moon in 2013

Designed to survive just three months, it had been operating for more than two years, lasting longer than Russia's 1970 Moon rover Lunokhod 1, which lived a total of 11 months.

The Jade Rabbit's main objective was to achieve China's first soft-landing on the moon, as well as to explore the surface.

'I'm the rabbit that has seen the most stars.'

On micro-blogging site Weibo, the rover's official first-person account has a following of over 600,000 fans.

It has kept them updated with news of its discoveries, as well as cute cartoons about its antics.

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption The rabbit was declared prematurely dead in February 2014, when it ran into numerous mechanical difficulties

In February 2014, it briefly went quiet during a lunar night, but after recovering from mechanical difficulties posted the message: "Hi, anybody there?"

But in a message sent on Sunday it said: "This time it really is goodnight," the rover said

"There are still many questions I would like answers to, but I'm the rabbit that has seen the most stars."

"The Moon has prepared a long dream for me, I don't know what it will be like - will I be a Mars explorer, or be sent back to Earth?"

Image copyright AFP
Image caption China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, and since then has taken huge advancements, including the deployment of an experimental space station

China's space agency confirmed Jade Rabbit's demise on Wednesday and netizens have been mourning his loss.

"Good night Jade Rabbit, I hope you have beautiful carrot-filled dreams. We are all proud of you," said one user on Weibo.

"I'll fly to the Moon to bring you home!" said one another. "You'll be able to sleep comfortably in a museum then."

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption "Wait for me to graduate from University- I'll fly to the moon to bring you home!" said one user on Weibo. "You'll be able to sleep comfortably in a museum then", says the first comment

"Sweet dreams. One day we will be reunited in a dream filled with a million stars and beautiful scenery. But for now, your dream has already been achieved," was another Weibo user's parting note.

"Goodnight, sleep well," another user simply said.

"I don't know why I'm so heartbroken. It's just a machine after all," said another netizen.

Jade Rabbit joins 60 American and Russian space vehicles, three Apollo buggies and two golf balls - hit by astronaut Alan Shepard - left behind on the Moon.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, and since then has taken huge advancements, including the deployment of an experimental space station.

It will next year attempt to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon that would return to Earth with samples.

More on this story