China’s Jade Rabbit moon rover has ‘come back to life’ – but remains in critical condition

Scientists say ‘it is possible we could save’ lunar rover that has won hearts of Chinese public

Space scientists say China’s Jade Rabbit lunar rover has “come back to life” and could yet be saved, just one day after it was declared dead by state media.

The mission, which was the country’s first “soft landing” on the moon and the world’s only one since 1976, was thrown into turmoil after the rover reported technological “abnormalities” as it shut down for its second lunar night.

After a 14-day wait while the moon was in shadow, when temperatures plunge to -170 degrees Celsius (-274 degrees Fahrenheit), the state-owned China News Service put out a brief statement saying the Jade Rabbit “could not be restored to full function”.

The rover, named after the mythological pet rabbit belonging to the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, won the hearts of the public after it was given a voice and heroic story by a hugely popular social media account.

Today, the Jade Rabbit account on Sina Weibo, which monitors and reports official news on the rover, posted the message: “Hi, anyone there?” – and was met with a deluge of responses.

Speaking to the Xinhua news agency, Chinese space programme spokesperson Pei Zhaoyu said: “It came back to life! At least it is alive and so it is possible we could save it.”

Referring to the issues which saw the malfunctions which saw the rover first declared dead, Mr Pei added: “It's awake. We have a signal. But the problem still hasn't been resolved.”

The Jade Rabbit mission represents a significant step for the country’s fledgling space exploration efforts. It has also conducted a space walk and put a space station into orbit – but trails some way behind the advances of Russia and the US, whose Mars rover mission celebrated its 10-year anniversary last month.

Yet there is reported to be huge public support for the rover in China, after state media started putting out its “diary” entries.

Before entering hibernation last month, and with its malfunctions confirmed as potentially critical, Jade Rabbit “wrote”: “Although I should’ve gone to bed this morning, my masters discovered something abnormal with my mechanical control system.

“My masters are staying up all night working for a solution. I heard their eyes are looking more like my red rabbit eyes. Nevertheless, I’m aware that I might not survive this lunar night.”

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