Science Nice Time: Rumors of Adorable Moon Rover Jade Rabbit’s Death Exaggerated
Have you heard about Yùtù? No, we do not mean the rock band. Yùtù is Mandarin for “Jade Rabbit,” and is the name of the lunar rover in China’s Chang’e 3 mission. Jade Rabbit has been rolling around for a few months now, being adorable.
Do you object to our description of a 310-pound go-kart as “adorable”? Does that subtract from Serious Science Times? In that case you clearly have not been following the news about how the rover has been liveblogging its own death and resurrection, for God’s sake. Let’s do like a Jade Rabbit, and Chang’explore.
China’s Chang’e lunar exploration missions (named after the Taoist moon goddess) have been operating since 2007, but Chang’e 3 is the first mission to actually land and deploy a rover. The Chinese public chose the name “Jade Rabbit” in an online poll, because it’s a name for the goddess Chang’e’s pet rabbit who lives on the moon with her. (Yes, we know, derherher, mythology is weird – but look at the full moon and squint, and you can see the rabbit in the dark spots. It is no dumber than believing in omnipotent Jewish carpenters, so shush.) We don’t know what the other name choices were in the poll, but good God we love this name, so we don’t even care.
Chang’e 3 landed in the middle of December and Jade Rabbit proceeded to roll all the fuck over Mare Imbrium, doing science every which way, all day long. So, like twelve hours, right? Haha, silly earthling! A moon day is about two weeks, and is followed by the two-week lunar night, which is incredibly cold, because it turns out the moon has no atmosphere, who knew? So Jade Rabbit landed mid-day and did nine solid Earth-days of sciencing. And then it powered down and slept for a moon-night, and then woke up and started to take soil samples and stuff, as you do.
But augh, the rover had A Problem. What exactly was the problem? Christ, we don’t know. What, do you think we have some kind of Chinese security clearance or something? China doesn’t tell anybody anything about how Jade Rabbit works, much less what is going wrong with it, because that is some secret squirrel stuff right there. And don’t you even make dumb “haha of course China made a thing that done broked” jokes, because that’s not racial transcendence, and also we are the morons who can’t tell the difference between English and metric measurements. But anyway, this mystery malfunction meant Jade Rabbit couldn’t prep itself for the long, incredibly cold lunar night.
So everybody back at the China National Space Administration was ready for Jade Rabbit to just up and die. But here’s where things get adorable. Jade Rabbit has a Weibo account, which is basically Chinese Twitter. Western media only started to take notice of this when Jade Rabbit started liveblogging its own imminent death.
Although I should’ve gone to bed this morning, my masters discovered something abnormal with my mechanical control system. My masters are staying up all night working for a solution. I heard their eyes are looking more like my red rabbit eyes. Nevertheless, I’m aware that I might not survive this lunar night.
If this journey must come to an early end, I am not afraid. Whether or not the repairs are successful, I believe even my malfunctions will provide my masters with valuable information and experience.
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. 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, humanity.
We’re not crying, it’s rain on our faces. Solemnity aside, we would be remiss if we did not give you the Daily Show segment on this, starring Patrick Stewart as Jade Rabbit for fuck’s sake:
Anyway, that was two weeks ago, the start of the lunar night, and all across the internet people offered their hopes and prayers that Jade Rabbit would be OK. And Tuesday was the start of the lunar day, and China had no news from Jade Rabbit, so they declared it dead.
BUT THEN THEY SUDDENLY HEARD FROM THE ROVER. It’s having trouble moving, but it can still communicate. And last week, whoever runs the Weibo account tweeted “Hi, anybody there?” ] because they are perfect humans, and the entirety of China’s internet freaked the fuck out with glee.
We admit that we grew up reading the scientifiction, and listening to notorious pot fiend Carl Sagan expound on how beautiful and majestic space is. And sure enough, just like huge nerds who love the Star Treks, we hold some glimmer of hope in our dark little hearts that space will finally be where we achieve international cooperation and peace, or at least where we go to escape impending eco-disaster. So, we have a soft spot for this sort of thing.
And yes, we know that China sucks at human rights, and we know about Tibet, and Taiwan, and the Sea of Japan, and the Hui people, and basically China’s systematic shittiness to everybody. But we are of the opinion that if we decide that only nice countries should go to space, then nobody goes to space. Today, we can just set aside our differences, and love science and discovery, and join with China and the Chinese people in being happy for Jade Rabbit and the Chang’e mission.