X Close

Regional

Published: Thursday February 13, 2014 MYT 7:57:00 AM
Updated: Thursday February 13, 2014 MYT 1:47:30 PM

China's Jade Rabbit rover comes 'back to life'

This screen grab taken from CCTV footage shows the Jade Rabbit moon rover, taken by the Chang'e-3 probe lander, on December 15, 2013

This screen grab taken from CCTV footage shows the Jade Rabbit moon rover, taken by the Chang'e-3 probe lander, on December 15, 2013

BEIJING (AFP) - 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.

The projects are seen as a symbol of China's rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once-impoverished nation.

The central government said the mission was "a milestone in the development of China's aerospace industry under the leadership of... Comrade Xi Jinping".

Earlier story

China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover 'dead': media

BEIJING (AFP) - China's troubled Jade Rabbit lunar rover has died on the surface of the moon, state media reported Wednesday, in a major setback for the country's ambitious space programme just weeks after its much-celebrated soft landing.

The country's first moon rover "could not be restored to full function on Monday as expected", the state-run China News Service said in a brief report, after the landmark mission suffered a mechanical malfunction last month.

The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, was deployed on the moon's surface on December 15 after the first lunar soft landing in nearly four decades and was seen as a symbol of China's rising global stature and technological advancement.

China is only the third country to complete a lunar rover mission after the United States and the former Soviet Union and the landing was a key step forward in Beijing's ambitious military-run space programme.

The silver rover experienced a "mechanical control abnormality" late January due to "the complicated lunar surface environment", according to the official Xinhua news agency, and was reportedly unable to function since then.

The rover - named Jade Rabbit after the pet of Chang'e, the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology - was designed to spend about three months exploring for natural resources on the moon.

Condolences poured in on Weibo, China's hugely-popular Twitter-like service, China News Service said in its brief report titled "Loss of lunar rover".

Chinese state-run media have hailed the mission as a technological triumph and a symbol of national pride while millions across the country have been charting the rover's accomplishments.

The news of its landing - the first of its kind since the former Soviet Union's mission in 1976 - topped the list of searched items on popular Internet message boards.

And when state media broke the news of its troubles last month, web users flooded social media networks with condolence messages.

Giant leap

The Jade Rabbit rover had sent back its first pictures from the moon hours after it was deployed, as officials lauded the soft landing as a giant leap for "mankind as a whole".

The colour images showing the Chinese national flag on the rover were transmitted live to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, where President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang watched the broadcast.

Images released by Xinhua also showed the lander, covered in golden foil, standing in the Sinus Iridum or Bay of Rainbows, its solar panels open to generate power.

The lunar mission came a decade after China first sent an astronaut into space and was seen as a symbol of the ruling Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once-impoverished nation.

"Exploration of outer space is an unremitting pursuit of mankind," China's space agency, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND), said after the rover was deployed.

The mission reflects "the new glory of China to scale the peaks in world science and technology areas," it said.

The potential to extract the moon's resources has been touted as a key reason behind Beijing's space programme, with the moon believed to hold uranium, titanium, and other mineral resources, as well as offering the possibility of solar power generation.

But the phenomenal cost of missions means such projects are not economically viable, experts say.
Beijing plans to establish a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send a human to the moon.


Tags / Keywords: Regional

advertisement

advertisement

advertisement