Technology & Science

China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover not dead after all

China has managed to make contact with its first lunar rover, called Yutu or "Jade Rabbit," which is now showing signs of life after earlier being reported lost.

Communications restored, but mechanical problems ongoing

China has restored communications with its space program's troubled "Jade Rabbit" moon rover, but engineers are still working to fix its mechanical problems, state media said Thursday.

The official Xinhua News Agency cited Pei Zhaoyu, the lunar probe program's spokesman, as saying the rover had survived the frigid cold of the lunar night that started Jan. 25.

Just a day earlier, the 140-kilogram moon buggy had been reported lost and mourned by the state-owned China News Service after it could not be restored to full service Monday as expected. 

The "Jade Rabbit" rover was designed to roam the lunar surface for three months while surveying for natural resources and sending back data. But it ran into problems as it was shutting down in preparation for the lunar night, which lasts two weeks.

The problems were a rare setback for China's burgeoning space program, which in recent years has conducted space walks and placed a space station in orbit.

Pei said the rover had "come back to life" despite space experts' earlier concerns that it might not survive the extremely low temperatures of the lunar night, when the temperature drops to -180 C.

"The rover stands a chance of being saved now that it is still alive," Pei was quoted as saying. He said it was still unclear what caused the problem.

The mission has been a popular success for China's military-backed space program. Updates on the moon rover's progress have been posted on an unofficial Chinese microblog account written with the Jade Rabbit's voice, attracting tens of thousands of comments by Chinese internet users.