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Jade Rabbit lunar rover is not yet dead

Jade Rabbit may live to rove another lunar day.

By Gabrielle Levy
Jade Rabbit lunar rover is not yet dead
China's lunar landing is run on the front page of leading Chinese newspapers being sold at a news stand in Beijing on December 15, 2013. China joined elite company yesterday with the controlled landing of its "Jade Rabbit" rover on the moon. China follows the U.S. and Soviet Union as the third country with a controlled - or "soft" - landing on the moon's surface. (UPI/Stephen Shaver) | License Photo

HONG KONG, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Jade Rabbit may live to rove another lunar day.

China's first lunar rover, known as Yutu in Mandarin, appeared to have stopped functioning Wednesday, but engineers were able to reestablish a connection Thursday.

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Trouble first surfaced in January, when the rover was a few days out from its scheduled dormancy period, necessary during the 14-day lunar night, when extreme cold and lack of sunlight requires the rover to power down for self-protection. It experienced a "mechanical control abnormality" on January 27, blamed on the "complicated lunar surface environment."

Then, on Wednesday, Chinese state media reported that mission control had lost communication with Yutu, but Thursday said it was "fully awake" and restored to normal status.

"Jade Rabbit has fully resurrected and is able to receive signals, but still suffers a mechanical control abnormality," China's lunar program spokesman Pei Zhaoyu said.

"The rover entered hibernation while in an abnormal state," Zhaoyu said. "We were worried it wouldn't be able to make it through the extreme cold of the lunar night. But it came back alive. The rover stands a chance of being saved as it is still alive."

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But Jade Rabbit is not yet out of the dark: The technical team is still trying to figure out the source of January's problem and determine if it can be repaired for the rest of its three-month planned mission on the moon's surface.

[Xinhua] [China National Radio]

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