February 14, 2014
China’s Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover Reawakens After Short Hibernation
[ Watch the Video: Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover Wakes Up ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
In January, technical difficulties forced the rover, dubbed Jade Rabbit, into a hibernation period from which many said it may never emerge.
"The Jade Rabbit went into sleep under an abnormal status," explained China’s space program spokesperson Pei Zhaoyu, cited the Sydney Morning Herald. "We initially worried that it might not be able to bear the extremely low temperatures during the lunar night."
Just prior to entering this slumber, an unverified user account under the name "Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover" on Sina Weibo -- the Chinese equivalent of Twitter -- posted, "Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humans."
The first-person perspective account is run by “space enthusiasts” who have been following the Chinese lunar mission, according to Xinhua reports, and many suspect that these enthusiasts are affiliated with the Chinese space program.
On Thursday, the unofficial account posted a simple message, "Hi, anybody there?"
The account’s reanimation quickly prompted thousands of responses.
"It's alive!! The rabbit is still alive!! The rabbit's awake!! It's really awake!!" wrote one user.
"Wake up darling baby," said another. "Billions of people are calling out to you!"
The dramatic responses are in line with the Jade Rabbit’s own theatrical voice – which was on full display when the account essentially performed a self-eulogy before its precarious hibernation.
"I thought I could hop around here for three months, but if this trip ends prematurely, I'm not afraid," the Jade Rabbit account said before shutting down. "I'll tell everyone a little secret: I'm actually not that sad. I'm just on my own adventure and like any protagonist, I have encountered a little problem. Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humans."
The Jade Rabbit was released onto the moon's surface on December 15, just a few hours after China’s Chang'e-3 probe landed.
The landing – the third such soft-landing in history and the first of its kind since Soviet Union's mission virtually four decades ago – has been an enormous source of pride in China, where millions across the country have followed the rover's accomplishments.
After essentially announcing that the rover had emerged from its slumber, the account took an almost business-as-usual tone saying, “It's going to be mid-day on the Moon here in a few days. I really want you guys to see the stars here."
According to Xinhua, Chinese engineers are still trying to fix mechanical problems on the rover that emerged before the hibernation period.
The landing of the Jade Rabbit was an essential step forward in China’s program and the country has said that it has plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 – as well as eventually sending a human to the moon.
The space projects are seen as an indication of China's rising global stature and technological advancement, along with the Communist party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once-impoverished nation.
Incidentally, the Jade Rabbit isn’t the only rover to have a first-person perspective being posted to social media. With more than 1.5 million followers, NASA’s Curiosity rover regularly posts its “thoughts” and updates regarding its activities on Mars to Twitter.