China’s troubled Jade Rabbit lunar rover, which experienced mechanical difficulties last month, has come “back to life”, state media reported Thursday.
“It came back to life! At least it is alive and so it is possible we could save it,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for the lunar programme, as saying on a verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
The probe, named Yutu or Jade Rabbit after the pet of Chang’e, the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology, had experienced a “mechanical control abnormality” last month, provoking an outpouring of sympathy from weibo users. Concerns were raised that the vehicle would not survive the bitter cold of the lunar night.
“The Jade Rabbit went into sleep under an abnormal status,” Pei said according to Xinhua. “We initially worried that it might not be able to bear the extremely low temperatures during the lunar night.”
An unverified weibo user “Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover”, which has posted first-person accounts in the voice of the probe, made its first update since January, when it had declared: “Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humans.”
“Hi, anybody there?” it said Thursday, prompting thousands of comments within minutes. Xinhua has said the account is “believed to belong to space enthusiasts who have been following Yutu’s journey to the moon”.
The Jade Rabbit was deployed on the moon’s surface on December 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 — was a huge source of pride in China, where millions across the country charted the rover’s accomplishments.
China first sent an astronaut into space a decade ago and is the third country to complete a lunar rover mission after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The landing was a key step forward in Beijing’s ambitious military-run space programme, which include plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and eventually sending a human to the moon.
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