After a record 31 months of collecting data from the moon’s surface, China’s Jade Rabbit lunar rover, popularly called “Yutu,” has been retired, the state media reported Wednesday.
Originally designed to last only three months, the rover that arrived on the moon on Dec. 14, 2013, aboard the Chang'e 3 lunar lander surpassed all expectations by lasting for an impressive 972 days. In its mission, it surpassed former Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 1 in 1970, which managed 322 days.
According to China’s state media, on July 28, Chang'e 3 went into hibernation for the 14-day lunar night and Jade Rabbit’s operations ceased. “Hi! This could be the last greetings from me!” was the last post on the rover’s Weibo — the country’s alternative to Twitter — account.
“The moon says it has prepared a long, long dream for me, and I’m wondering what the dream would be like — would I be a mars explorer, or be sent back to earth?” Xinhua News Agency quoted the lunar rover’s post which received almost 100,000 shares, likes and comments.
“Good night bunny, Chinese astronauts will bring you home and you will never be alone,” a Chinese user wrote on Weibo.
This is not the first time that news of the rover shutting down has come about. Weeks after landing on the moon, the rover shut down due to mechanical difficulties, causing engineers to think that it was lost. However, it “woke” up just hours later and posted: “Hi, anybody there?”
The message sent on Sunday was different. “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.”
China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 following which it has made great progress in its space program, like the deployment of an experimental space station. Next year, it plans to attempt an unmanned spaceship landing on the moon that would return to Earth with samples, a feat that has only been achieved by United States and Russia.
The country has also hinted at a possible crewed mission to the moon, the Associated Press reported.
The name of the lunar lander and rover are of great mythical importance as Chang'e is the name of a Chinese goddess said to live on the moon. Yutu was her pet.