(CN) — The 2 ½-year odyssey of China’s lunar rover Yutu has finally ended, the nation’s state agency said Wednesday — a record-breaking mission that lasted much longer than originally planned.
Yutu — which translates to “jade rabbit” — launched in December 2013, spending nearly three full years on the moon’s surface. The mission was supposed to span three months.
Chang’e 3 went into hibernation on July 28 for the 14-day lunar night and Yutu ceased operations, according to the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.
The data collected has enabled researchers to write more than 100 articles for various scientific journals.
The rover’s 972 days of operation exceeded the previous record set by the former Soviet Union’s Lunohkod 1 in 1970.
Despite its operational longevity, engineers worried they’d lost the rover after it shut down due to abnormal conditions a few weeks into its mission. The rover revived and operated efficiently until its ultimate shutdown last week.
The rover’s radar, telescopes and cameras recorded data that provided insight into the geological evolution of the moon.
Yutu posted a final goodbye on its Weibo microblog — a Chinese version of Twitter — joking about its potential return to Earth.
“I’m a rabbit that has seen the most stars!” the post said.
China plans to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon next year that would eventually return to Earth with samples. Only Russia and the United States have completed such a mission successfully.
China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, and has expanded its space operations ever since. The nation’s other space endeavors include its experimental space station, which was launched in September 2011.
Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences
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