By Jacob Aron
The moon just got a little more lonesome. China’s State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) announced today that its moon rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, has finally stopped operating after 31 months on the surface.
Yutu touched down on the lunar surface in December 2013 as part of the Chang’e-3 lander mission, making China the third country to reach the moon after Russia and the United States. It was prematurely declared dead in February 2014 after a harsh lunar night – the moon experiences two weeks of dark followed by two of light – then showed signs of life, but was unable to move. Despite these issues, in October 2015 Yutu claimed the record for the longest operating rover on the moon.
SASTIND says data from Yutu has generated over 100 scientific papers about the moon, including the discovery of a previously unseen layer of lava flows. Yutu’s death isn’t the end of China’s lunar ambitions. The Chang’e 3 lander, which hosts a robotic telescope, is still going strong, and in 2017 the nation plans to launch a probe to gather moon rocks and bring them back to Earth.