China's Yutu Moon rover.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s Yutu Moon rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Feeble but hanging on.

That’s the diagnosis from China regarding the country’s Yutu moon rover.

According to China’s Xinhua news agency, the lunar robot has undergone 11 periods of dormancy with its functions “gradually degrading,” said Yu Dengyun, deputy chief designer of China’s lunar probe mission.

“Yutu has gone through freezing lunar nights under abnormal status, and its functions are gradually degrading,” Yu told Xinhua.

China’s Chang’e 3 mission – a lander and rover – touched down on the lunar surface in mid-December of 2013.

Deployed from the lander, the Yutu rover performed several science duties before control problems struck the robot prior to experiencing a second lunar night of 14 days duration on January 25, 2014.

China space engineers are trying to deduce why the robot ran into problems via ground-based simulations, Yu said. That research is intended to be used in China’s robotic lunar sampling program – scooping up and rocketing back to Earth selected specimens of the Moon.

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