The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current, February 03, 2014, Page Page 16, Image 16

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February 3, 2014
Chinese fans of ‘Jade Rabbit’ rover await news
SOMBER SIGNOFF. China’s first moon rover
“Jade Rabbit” touches the lunar surface in this De-
cember 15, 2013 file photo taken by the onboard
camera of the lunar probe Chang’e 3 and made from
the screen of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in
Beijing. Fans of the moon rover sent Lunar New Year
greetings to the robot on January 31, wishing it a
speedy recovery from a malfunction it reported in a
melodramatic dispatch by an official news agency be-
fore going into hibernation. (AP Photo/Xinhua, File)
By Gillian Wong
The Associated Press
EIJING — The Jade Rabbit did
not go quietly into that long lunar
Instead, China’s troubled robotic moon
rover — given voice by a government news
agency — melodramatically pondered the
meaning of its perhaps-fleeting existence,
measured its contribution to humanity,
and, finally, said goodbye.
Then it shut down for the lunar night,
which lasts about 14 earth days — its
status unclear.
The Jade Rabbit’s fans in China sent
Lunar New Year greetings to the robot,
wishing it a speedy recovery from a
malfunction it reported before going into
“Chinese people have been worried
about the Jade Rabbit,” wrote a
microblogger with the username Yang
Huiyan. “Hope the New Year will bring
good luck to him.”
The official Xinhua News Agency had
carried what it described as a diary entry
the rover “wrote” before it shut down.
Despite being usually staid in their
coverage of national events, Chinese state
media tend to put a folksy touch on certain
stories that help drum up national pride.
State news outlets are especially fond of
giving cutesy personalities to non-human
actors playing key roles in propaganda
efforts, whether they are pandas returning
from zoos abroad or, in the Jade Rabbit’s
case, the stars of its military-backed space
In the Xinhua diary entry, the Jade
Rabbit took on the tone of a heroic
adventurer encountering an obstacle that
might prove insurmountable, trying to put
on a brave face while penning what could
be its final farewell.
“If this journey must come to an early
end, I am not afraid,” said the six-wheeled,
solar-powered rover. “Whether or not the
repairs are successful, I believe even my
malfunctions will provide my masters with
valuable information and experience.”
The personification of the rover has been
a hit with the Chinese public. Parts of the
Xinhua report were quoted by an unofficial
Chinese microblog account written with
the Jade Rabbit’s voice, and the blog was
flooded with tens of thousands of
sympathetic comments.
As for the rover’s fate, a report by the
state-run Science and Technology Daily
newspaper said that would only be clear at
the end of the lunar night. Calls to the
space program rang unanswered on
January 31, a public holiday.
Previously, the rover said its “masters”
— the space program’s engineers,
presumably — had found an abnormality
in its control mechanism and were
working through the night to fix it. It
provided no details on what the problem
was, but hinted that it was serious.
“Even so, I know I may not make it
through this lunar night,” it said, striking
a somber note.
The Jade Rabbit began operating in
December after making the first soft
landing on the moon by a space probe,
Chang’e 3, in 37 years. The moon lander is
named after Chang’e, a mythical goddess
of the moon, and the rover, after Yutu, or
“Jade Rabbit” in English, the goddess’ pet.
In the diary entry, the Jade Rabbit
recounted its achievements in the 42 days
it spent on the moon, saying it travelled
more than 100 meters (110 yards) and
collected a large amount of scientific data
with a panoramic camera, radar, and other
But in a line clearly written with the aim
of tugging at heartstrings, the Xinhua
report had the Jade Rabbit appealing to its
readers to take care of the spacecraft that
brought it to the moon, Chang’e, in the
rover’s absence.
“If I really cannot be fixed, when the
time comes, I hope everyone will
remember to help me comfort her,” it said.
The rover was designed to roam the
lunar surface for three months while
surveying for natural resources and
sending back data. Then it ran into
problems as it was shutting down in
preparation for the lunar night when the
temperature drops to minus 180º Celsius
(minus 292º Fahrenheit).
“The sun has already set here and the
temperature is falling very quickly. I’ve
said a lot today, yet still feel like it’s not
enough,” the rover said in its concluding
paragraphs. “I’ll tell everyone a secret.
Actually, I’m not feeling especially sad.
Just like any other hero, I’ve only
encountered a little problem while on my
own adventure.”
“Good night, planet earth. Good night,