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Emily LakdawallaFebruary 12, 2014

Possible hope for Yutu: "Situation is getting better," but no details [UPDATED]

UPDATE: A website devoted to the amateur monitoring of radio signals from deep space, uhf-satcom.com, reports that a downlink signal from the Yutu rover has been detected, so it is alive! There is still no information on the rover's state of health and whether it can still be commanded, but with deep-space missions that are facing problems, receiving a signal from a distressed spaceship is the number one best piece of news you can hear.

And, the signal we've all been waiting for, direct downlink from the Yutu rover! http://t.co/8RxzkahNp5 a pretty good signal!

— UHF Satcom (@uhf_satcom) February 12, 2014
Signal detected from Yutu rover

uhf-satcom.com and Hearsat

Signal detected from Yutu rover
Radio enthusiasts from the website uhf-satcom.com detected a signal from the Yutu rover on February 12, 2014, confirming that it had survived through a second lunar night despite a malfunction.

A terse Xinhua news report posted today says there may be some sign of life from Yutu, now that the Sun has risen on the third lunar day since Chang'e 3 landed. Here is the entire text:

 【情况趋好,再等等——玉兔有望再传音讯】一位正在抢救小兔子的嫦娥三号任务核心人员刚才用嘶哑的声音,兴奋的语调告诉记者:“小兔子情况趋好,有点再醒 的迹象,再等等。”这是自上月25日玉兔进入月夜以来记者第一次听到积极消息。小兔子,加油!师傅们,你们辛苦了!余晓洁

Quanzhi Ye translated the part in quotes: "Bunny seems to be getting better, there is evidence that he is awake, we will see."

Here is the Google translation of the entire text:

Situation is getting better, then so - the rabbit is expected to re-transmission of audio] a small rabbit rescue mission Chang E III core staff just croaked, excited tone, told reporters: "Little Rabbit situation is getting better, a little longer wake signs, wait. "This is the 25th month since the rabbit into the moonlit reporter first heard positive news. Bunny, come on! Chefs, you have worked hard! Yu Xiaojie"

My reading of that translation: the reporter is stating that the Chang'e 3 core staff sound excited for the first time since the Sun set on the rover on January 25.

EDIT: Thanks to Chit-Yee Foh for providing this translation in the comments:

A Chang'e 3 mission core member who is rescuing Yutu has just spoken to reporter with a hoarse and excited tone: "The situation of the little rabbit is improving, with a little indication of awakening, wait a while more."

This is the first time since 25th of last month when Yutu enters lunar nights that a reporter heard something positive. Way to go, little rabbit! Thanks for the hard work, masters! - Yu Xiaojie

PS note the noun "Masters" in this case with the context of "master and disciples". It is common to address "profressionals" as "masters" in China.

This is frustratingly non-specific. But it allows some hope, anyway. If I hear anything further about what exactly has indicated that Yutu survived the lunar night, I'll post again.

EDIT: The report has since been confirmed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences via its Weibo microblogging account, quoting the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program's spokesperson, Pei Zhaoyu.

This report of hope comes the same day as another Chinese website -- the English-language outlet of the state-run China News Service (not a state news source, as far as I know) posted a story about the lunar rover being dead. The story got picked up by several English-language sites. But since the text of the story talks about netizens mourning it on Weibo, it sounds like this is not based on new information but is rather another version of the story reported here and here about the social media response to the unofficial Yutu Weibo account. So, if I were forced to pick which story to trust, I'd pick the "it may be alive" story.

Yutu on the Moon, December 16, 2013

Chinese Academy of Sciences

Yutu on the Moon, December 16, 2013

Read more: mission status, Chang'E program

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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