BEIJING — Chinese Internet users flooded the country’s social media networks on Monday with condolences for the troubled Jade Rabbit moon rover, which experienced a “mechanical control abnormality” over the weekend.
State-run media reported on Saturday that the country’s first moon rover had run into trouble due to “the complicated lunar surface environment.” By Monday afternoon, “Jade Rabbit lunar rover” had shot to the top of the most-searched terms list on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
“Little bunny, we’re praying for you!” one Web user wrote. “In space exploration, there’s great beauty, but there’s also great difficulty,” another user wrote. “I hope one day you will be resurrected.” The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, was deployed on the moon’s surface on Dec. 15, several hours after the Chang’e-3 probe landed.
The landing — the third such soft-landing in history, and the first of its kind since the Soviet Union’s mission nearly four decades ago — has been a huge source of pride in China, where millions across the country have been charting the rover’s accomplishments.
The official Xinhua News Agency, which broke the news of the Jade Rabbit’s troubles, published a “first-person account” from the rover that appeared geared towards softening the blow.
The account appears to have been based on a posting by weibo user “Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover,” an unverified account that Xinhua said is “believed to belong to space enthusiasts who have been following Yutu’s journey to the moon.”
“The bad news is, I was supposed to go to sleep this morning, but before I went to sleep, my masters found some mechanical control abnormalities,” the first-person posting reads.
“Some parts of my body won’t listen to their commands. Now my masters are hard at work thinking of ways to fix me … Even so, I know that it’s possible I won’t be able to endure this night.”
Xinhua noted that other countries have seen lunar missions fail in the past.
“I originally thought I could hop around up here for three months,” the first-person posting continues.
“But if this trip is to end prematurely. I’m not afraid. Whether or not they can fix me, I know that my breakdown can provide my masters with a lot of valuable information and experience.”
It concludes: “The sun here has fallen, and the temperature is dropping fast. I’ve said a lot today, but I still feel it’s not enough.” “I’ll tell everyone a little secret. I’m actually not that sad. I’m just in my own adventure story, and like any protagonist, I encountered a bit of a problem. Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humans.”
More than 6,000 Internet users have written messages in response, many of them expressing hope that the rover has not seen its last.
“We’ll always remember that you’re watching us on the moon,” wrote one Web user. “One day, we’ll bring you home.”