China's lunar rover awakes despite abnormality

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Screen shows the photo of the Yutu moon rover taken by the camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander during the mutual-photograph process, at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 15, 2013. The moon rover and the moon lander took photos of each other Sunday night, marking the complete success of the Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission. [Xinhua photo]

China's moon rover Yutu is awake after its troubled dormancy but experts are still trying to find out the cause of its abnormality, a spokesman with the country's lunar probe program said on Thursday.

"Yutu has come back to life," said Pei Zhaoyu, the spokesman.

Pei said the moon rover, named after the pet of a lunar goddess in ancient Chinese mythology, has now been restored to its normal signal reception function. But experts are still working to verify the cause of its mechanical control abnormality.

The problem emerged before Yutu entered its second dormancy on the moon on Jan. 25 as the lunar night fell.

"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.

"The rover stands a chance of being saved now that it is still alive," he said.

The news caused a splash on China's social networking circles.

On Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, user "Yutu Lunar Rover", which has followed the developments of the mission in a first-person account, posted its first update since the abnormality.

"Hi, anybody there?" it asked in a post, which prompted some 60,000 reposts and 40,000 comments within two hours.

"We are all here," one Weibo user replied.

"Hold on there, the whole country's got your back," another wrote.

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 Friday.

"Which would you prefer? Chocolates or rice dumplings?" asked one user named "shengkongtangjiang". This year's Lantern Festival falls on the same day as Valentine's Day.

Fans overseas posted messages on Twitter.

"Makes me want to dance a jig," one user wrote minutes after the official @XHNews account posted the news that Yutu had woken up.

"PRC engineers & scientists shld be proud of their excellent work, & congratulations to them from all of humankind," another user named "jeffsonstein" said.

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

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

China is the third country in the world to successfully soft-land on the moon after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Follow on Twitter and on Facebook to join the conversation. You can use the hashtag #MoonRoverYutu to share your thoughts on this story.

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