China’s Jade Rabbit Moon Rover Fights for Life, Still Alive

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | February 13, 2014 5:14 PM EST

After its emotional farewell piece on late January, China's Jade Rabbit moon rover it seems isn't prepared yet to really let go. After a 14-day stretch lunar night, Jade Rabbit has awoken and is still alive.

REUTERS
China's first moon rover, Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, moves onto the lunar surface in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television (CCTV) December 15, 2013. China landed an unmanned spacecraft on the moon on Saturday, state media reported, in the first such "soft-landing" since 1976, joining the United States and the former Soviet Union in managing to accomplish such a feat. The Chang'e 3, a probe named after a lunar goddess in traditional Chinese mythology, is carrying the solar-powered Yutu buggy, which will dig and conduct geological surveys. REUTERS/CCTV via Reuters TV

"At first we were worried the rover could not withstand the low temperatures on the moon, because it entered its dormant state while in an abnormal state. But it is alive," Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for the lunar programme, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency on a verified account on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

In December 2013, China expanded its ambitious space programme by blasting its first ever moon rover mission. However, barely six weeks on top of the moon, Jade Rabbit encountered a mechanical problem that killed its ability to put itself into hibernation.

Chinese scientists had expected the worst. Since it cannot hibernate by itself, Jade Rabbit won't be able to protect its instruments from the below-freezing temperatures of the lunar night which can drop to as low as minus 180 degrees Celsius.

Jade Rabbit's apparent short life elicited an outpour of sympathy from Weibo users.

But apparently the agony was misplaced.

"Hi, anybody there?" Jade Rabbit said on Thursday, fresh from its half-month slumber.

"The Jade Rabbit went into sleep under an abnormal status," Xinhua wrote, quoting Pei. "We initially worried that it might not be able to bear the extremely low temperatures during the lunar night."

"It is still alive, so there is a chance it could be saved," he added.

Jade Rabbit's more than 300,000 followers rejoiced over its resurrection over at Weibo.

"This message made me fill up. My nose aches," one user wrote. "This really is China's Wall-E."

"Getting ready for your date with Curiosity [NASA's Mars rover] tomorrow?" another wrote, obviously referring to the frenzy over Valentine's Day.

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(Photo: REUTERS / )
China's first moon rover, Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, moves onto the lunar surface in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television (CCTV) December 15, 2013. China landed an unmanned spacecraft on the moon on Saturday, state media reported, in the first such "soft-landing" since 1976, joining the United States and the former Soviet Union in managing to accomplish such a feat. The Chang'e 3, a probe named after a lunar goddess in traditional Chinese mythology, is carrying the solar-powered Yutu buggy, which will dig and conduct geological surveys. REUTERS/CCTV via Reuters TV
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