In space mortality news, Yutu, a Chinese lunar rover, was pronounced dead on the scene by moon police last week. Authorities have declared the cause of death to be suicide by fortnightly rotation cycle, based on a preliminary report by investigators from CSI: Sea of Tranquility.
The rover was sent to the moon as part of a project by the Chinese Ministry of Color to find new sources of pigment for the desperately monochromatic country, but the mission appears to have been unsuccessful. After covering 100 metres (approximately 100 meters), Yutu said, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
Yutu’s parents, Chang’e III and Yu’tube (pictured above) were so disturbed by the news that their faces turned orange, prompting a visit from Minister of Color Hue Jintao. They expressed hope that Yutu had merely gone to live in mechanical hibernation with Russia’s Lunokhod 1, who went to the moon in 1971.
In a message sent last week, the despondent lunar rover told the Chinese state news agency Xinhua: “I’ll tell everyone a little secret. I’m actually not supposed to be dying on the moon. I’m just in my own horror story, and like any incidental character, I’ve encountered a horrible, terrifying death. Goodbye, cruel Earth. Goodbye, cruel humans.”
The suicide note was posted on China’s equivalent of Twitter from an unofficial account believed to be run by a group of robot suicide enthusiasts. More than 6,000 people have responded with messages urging the rover to “Jump!” For them, it doesn’t matter that Yutu can’t jump, or that jumping on the surface of the moon wouldn’t serve any purpose. According to one enthusiast, who requested anonymity because he really wasn’t into the whole Yutu thing, “‘Jump!’ is just the kind of thing people yell when someone’s on the edge of a fortnightly rotation cycle.”
Yutu is not the only spacecraft to have a public fan base, according to public fans of Jefferson Starship.
It could be argued that these engagements are cynical attempts to gain public support for funding space exploration, when that money could be used to fund urgent terrestrial problems. But nobody argues that, because the spectacle of watching Yutu slowly die is more interesting than most reality shows. According to Vanessa Hill, Social Media Manager for Cable & Satellite Investigations of Rural Oregon (CSI:RO), “By personifying the spacecraft in the form of social media, we’re characterizing spacecraft as just another source of irritating spam, so people don’t feel bad watching them freeze to death.”
Metatechnology professor Robert Pepperell takes a post-human perspective. “The expected annihilation of the human race in the coming robot apocalypse requires that we revise our attitude toward human-machine interaction. We need to stop sending them to die in colorless hellholes like the moon. In its place we must posit an exchange of cognitive ability between the sentient user and the cognition embodied in killer robots. Otherwise, they’ll just use us as organic batteries.”
Disclaimer: The author of this post does not work for, consult to, follow on Twitter, or profit in any way from suicidal Chinese space robots. Although he would be willing to if the price was right. Except the Twitter thing. If you read this article, you should know that no company or organization is likely to ever benefit from it.
(Click on the grieving parents to read the original story.)