UPDATE: Some sources are now saying Yutu has actually responded to a signal! So maybe it’s not dead after all. 😉
The sun has now risen on Mare Imbrium, and the Yutu rover remains silent. Chang’e 3, the lander, seems to have come through the night just fine, but Yutu will roll no further. The first sign of trouble came two weeks ago, when preparing to hibernate through its second lunar night. Like the two Lunokhods before it, Yutu has a “lid” so that it can let its electronics radiate heat away and not cook themselves in the day, but close up and keep them warm during the long night. Two weeks ago, the lid would not close, with engineers speculating that some sort of obstruction was preventing it from closing — a bit of dust or lunar debris kicked up by the wheels, perhaps. A fluke. That, unfortunately, can happen with robotic spacecraft. Too much is beyond your control. So alas, we must bid farewell to the little rover.
The Daily Show had a lovely farewell to the rover recently, after the news of the stuck lid broke. Patrick Stewart gives a hilarious and touching performance as Yutu:
Better quality available at Comedy Central: Who Froze Jade Rabbit?