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China's lunar rover comes back from the dead

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Jade Rabbit shows signs of life, but its fate remains uncertain

Jade rabbit
Jade rabbit

China's first lunar rover has reportedly started functioning again, one day after officials declared it broken beyond repair. Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported Thursday that the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) spacecraft had "awoken" from its dormant state, with a spokesman saying that the rover "stands a chance of being saved."

The Jade Rabbit first malfunctioned in January, just as it was supposed to enter a two-week dormancy period. At the time, it was feared that the rover did not properly close its solar panels, leaving itself vulnerable to the moon's frigid temperatures. Prospects looked grim until today, when the craft suddenly came back to life and began picking up signals, though there are lingering mechanical issues and its fate remains uncertain.

"it is alive."

"At first we were worried the rover could not withstand the low temperatures on the moon, because it entered its dormant state while in an abnormal state," Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for China's lunar program, told Xinhua. "But it is alive."

The Jade Rabbit was launched into space late last year, making China the third country to ever land a craft on the moon. The mission has been followed with great interest and pride in China, and is seen as the first step in an ambitious national space program. Beijing hopes to build a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and plans to eventually put a man on the moon.