KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – China’s maiden moon rover Yutu awoke from her regular two week long slumber on Friday, March 14, to begin the 4th Lunar Day since the probes history making touchdown on the surface of Earth’s nearest neighbor in mid December 2013.
The Chang’e-3 mothership lander that deposited Yutu onto the pockmarked lunar surface also awoke two days earlier on Wednesday, March 12.
“Yutu and the lander have restarted their operations and are exploring as scheduled,” according to China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND), responsible for executing the Chang’e-3 mission.
Yutu is China’s first ever Moon rover and successfully accomplished a soft landing on the Moon on Dec. 14, 2013, piggybacked atop the Chang’e-3 mothership lander.
However, “the control issues that have troubled Yutu since January remain,” says China’s government owned Xinhua news agency.
The hugely popular ‘Yutu’ rover is still suffering from an inability to maneuver its life giving solar panels. It is also unable to activate its six wheels and move around the surface – as I reported here.
At the time that Yutu’s 2nd Lunar sleep period began on Jan. 25, 2014, Chinese space officials had announced that the robot’s future was in jeopardy after it suffered an unidentified “ mechanical control anomaly” due to the “complicated lunar surface.”
Earlier this month, China announced that “Yutu suffered a control circuit malfunction in its driving unit.”
“The control circuit problem prevented Yutu from entering the second dormancy as planned,” said Ye Peijian, chief scientist of the Chang’e-3 program, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
A functioning control circuit is required to lower the rovers mast and protect the delicate components and instruments mounted on the mast from directly suffering from the extremely harsh cold of the Moon’s recurring night time periods.
“Normal dormancy needs Yutu to fold its mast and solar panels,” said Ye according to CCTV, China’s state run broadcaster.
Fortunately, the panoramic camera, radar and other sciene instruments and equipment are functioning normally, says SASTIND.
Yutu even snapped at least a pair new images of the lander during Lunar Day 3.
See our mosaic of Yutu’s Lunar Day 3 lander image as well as our the complete 360 degree timelapse color panorama from Lunar Day 1 herein and at NASA APOD on Feb. 3, 2014 – assembled by Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer.
By reawakening on March 14, the 140 kg robot also survived for its three month design lifetime on the moon.
Yutu’s goal is to accomplish a roving expedition to investigate the moon’s surface composition and natural resources.
So far the 1200 kg Chang’e-3 lander is functioning as planned during its first three lunar days, says SASTIND.
“The lander’s optical telescope, extreme ultraviolet camera and lunar dust measurement device completed scheduled tasks and obtained a large amount of data,” says China’s government owned Xinhua news agency.
China is only the 3rd country in the world to successfully soft land a spacecraft on Earth’s nearest neighbor after the United States and the Soviet Union.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Chang’e-3, Orion, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX, commercial space, LADEE, Mars and more planetary and human spaceflight news. Learn more at Ken’s upcoming presentations at the NEAF astro/space convention on April 12/13.