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Down but not out: Jade Rabbit comes back from the dead

By Euan McKirdy for CNN
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 0744 GMT (1544 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China's Chang'e 3 moon rover, thought to be beyond saving,has resumed signal-receiving status
  • 'Jade Rabbit' prematurely pronounced inoperative
  • Moon rover's 300,000 weibo fans rejoice

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Reports of Jade Rabbit's demise may have been premature.

China's first lunar rover had stopped functioning, state media reported Wednesday, but signs are emerging that Yutu, as it is known in Mandarin, may be up and running again.

Following technical malfunctions Xinhua said that the lunar rover had lost communication with mission control but on Thursday the state news agency said that the rover was "fully awake" and had returned to its normal signal-receiving 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 told Xinhua.

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"The rover entered hibernation while in an abnormal state. 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."

READ MORE: China's moon landing

Xinhua also posted a screenshot of the Chang'e-3 Moon Probe's Sina Weibo account, which, at 8.49am Thursday morning local time, asked: "Is anyone out there?"

The rover has over 300,000 followers on the Chinese Twitter-like social media site, some of whom celebrated the lucky robot's resurrection.

One Weibo user said that the rabbit was "waking up for the [Chinese lantern] festival" which starts on Friday.

Another took a cynical view, commenting that some countries would "be disappointed" at China's space program's ability to come back from the dead.

An amateur website dedicated to monitoring radio signals from space also reported on its Twitter account that it had detected "pretty good signals" from the device.

The lunar rover's end seemed near when it signed off at the end of January with a poignant message: "Goodnight humanity."

READ MORE: China's moon rover launched successfully

The device had been out of action for two weeks following a technical malfunction, and media around the world filed its obituary late on Wednesday after a short statement on Chinese state media alerted the world to its apparent terminal failings.

"China's first lunar rover, Yutu, could not be restored to full function on Monday as expected," the report stated.

However, the robot has given its fans in China and around the world hope that it will resume its planned three-month mission and continue examining the moon's surface for potential resources.

The deputy chief designer of the Chang-e probe system told China National Radio the technical team is still trying to determine the source of problem and work on the plan for repair.

Should Jade Rabbit make a full recovery, it would cap another success for space exploration, which has seen NASA's Opportunity Mars rover, currently exploring the red planet, far outlast its expected lifespan.

CNN's Zhang Dayu and Wilfred Chan contributed to this report

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