China has restored communications with its troubled “Jade Rabbit” moon rover, but engineers are still working to fix its mechanical problems, state media has said.
The moon buggy started experiencing “mechanical control abnormalities” late in January, when entering its second 14-day lunar night, a period that exposes the moon’s surface to temperatures as low as minus 180 degrees Celsius.
“It’s awake. We have a signal. But the problem still hasn’t been resolved,” said Pei Zhaoyu, a spokesman for China’s lunar probe programme.
The problems were a rare setback for China’s burgeoning space programme, which in recent years has conducted space walks and placed a space station in orbit.
“The rover stands a chance of being saved now that it is still alive,” Pei was quoted as saying, adding that it was still unclear what caused the problem.
The Jade Rabbit, named after a lunar goddess in traditional Chinese mythology, was designed to roam the lunar surface for three months to collect data and survey for natural resources.
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The rover, and the Chang’e 3 probe that delivered it, marked the first soft landing on the moon since 1976, before which both the US and the Soviet Union accomplished the feat.
The mission’s progress can be tracked on an unofficial Chinese microblog account written from the Jade Rabbit’s perspective, attracting tens of thousands of comments by Chinese Internet users.