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China's Moon rover wakes up after troubled dormancy

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Artist rendering of Chang'e-3 lander and rover. A China Academy of Space Technology photo

BEIJING (PTI): China's "dead" Moon rover, the Jade Rabbit, has "woken" up from its troubled dormancy and received normal signals but experts are still trying to find out the cause of its technical problems, a top official said on Feb. 13.

Yutu, as it is called in Chinese language, has "come back to life," Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for China's lunar programme was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.

On Feb. 12, official media reports said that Yutu was declared dead after it failed to respond to commands.

The Moon vehicle, China's first, which was launched in December 2013, had become inactive before completion of its mission.

"Now that it is still alive, the rover stands a chance of being saved," Pei said.

Pei said Yutu, named after the pet of a lunar goddess in ancient Chinese mythology, has now returned to a state where it can receive signals as normal once again.

But experts are still working to verify the cause of its mechanical control issues.

Yutu was designed to roam the lunar surface to survey the Moon's geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources.

It was expected to work on the Moon for at least three months. But problems emerged before the rover entered its second dormancy on the Moon on January 25 as the lunar night fell. Experts feared it might never be able to function again.

"Yutu went to sleep under an abnormal status," Pei said, adding that experts had been concerned that it might not be able to survive the extremely low temperatures during the lunar night.

One night on the Moon is about 14 days on Earth, during which the temperature falls below minus 180 degrees Celsius.

During the lunar night, there is no sunlight to provide power to Yutu's solar panel.

In this period, the rover is expected to stay in a power-off mode and communication with Earth is also cut off.

Yutu entered the first period of dormancy on December 26 as the mission's first lunar night arrived, and "woke up" on January 11. It was originally scheduled to wake up from the second dormant period on February 10.

The news of its revival caused a splash in China's social networking circles with thousands posting happy comments.

Some joked about the rover being a "foodie" waking up for rice dumplings, a must-have delicacy for China's Lantern Festival that falls on Feb. 14.

Yutu touched down on the Moon's surface on December 15, several hours after China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 soft-landed on the Moon on December 14.

Chang'e-3 is part of the second phase of China's lunar programme, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth. It follows the success of the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010.

China is only the third country in the world to successfully soft-land a rover on the Moon after the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union.

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China  Moon  Rover  Space  
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