China has been successful so far in its first mission to the moon. The Chinese launched their moon mission, which landed on the moon on December 14. Both the Yutu Rover and the Chang’e-3 lander have functioned as designed so far. One of the biggest tests for both the pieces of Chinese equipment is set to begin soon.
Night on the moon is very harsh and a full lunar night lasts 14 earth days. The temperatures on the moon can get as low as -180 degrees during the lunar night. The problem is that temperatures that cold can damage the sensitive electronics inside the Chinese lander and rover.
To help prevent any damage from the frigid lunar night, the Chinese equipment will go into hibernation mode. The lander and the rover went into hibernation mode shortly after landing to avoid damage from direct solar radiation, and survived. The Chinese tested the rovers to the best of their ability while on Earth, but the real challenge comes in the incredibly cold temperatures on the surface of the moon during the lunar night.
The only way to know if the Chinese probes have made it through the cold lunar night, is if they start back up when it’s over. To help keep the sensitive electronics from getting too cold, both the lander and the rover have a radioisotopic heat source inside a sealed compartment to keep the electronics at a temperature of 40C. Both probes should start back up on January 12, 2014.