In mid-December, China joined the exclusive club of nations that has successfully landed a probe on the moon. Dubbed the Jade Rabbit after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology, the lunar rover made a soft landing on the moon’s surface.
Jade Rabbit was supposed to roam the surface for three months transmitting data back to Earth about the moon’s geology and mineral resources. All was going according to plan until the rover experienced technical difficulties that left it exposed to the moon’s harsh elements as the lunar night fell.
During the 14-day lunar night, temperatures drop to minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit. Jade Rabbit did not shut down in time, leaving its delicate instruments exposed to unbearable cold and radiation. Chinese scientists have worked tirelessly to fix the problem, but it is probably too late.
Nonetheless, Jade Rabbit reminded the world that mankind’s adventures on the moon are far from over.
The last words Jade Rabbit transmitted according to the Chinese media were somewhat poignant: “Good night planet Earth, good night humanity.” We’ll find out at the end of the lunar night whether reports of Jade Rabbit’s demise are premature.