China’s Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, lunar rover is functioning again after shutting down for a 14-day lunar night, officials said on Thursday.
“Yutu has come back to life,” Pei Zhaoyu, a spokesman for China’s lunar exploration programme, told state media.
The rover’s “normal signal reception function” was restored and scientists were working to identify the cause of a mechanical problem reported on January 25, when the Jade Rabbit entered its “sleep” mode for the freezing lunar night, the official Xinhua news agency quoted Mr. Pei as saying.
“Yutu went into sleep [mode] under an abnormal status,” Mr. Pei said.
“The rover stands a chance of being saved now that it is still alive.” Space officials said earlier that the unspecified problem with the solar-powered rover was due to a “complicated lunar surface environment,” but they gave no further explanations.
International space experts speculated that the problem could be in the electric motors that close the rover’s solar panels.
Launched on the Chang’e-3 spacecraft on December 1, the rover was designed for a three-month mission exploring Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows.
China became the third nation to land a spacecraft on the moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union, when Chang’e-3 touched down on the lunar surface on December 14.
The solar-powered, six-wheeled Jade Rabbit rover weighs 120 kilograms and has a robotic arm to collect a payload of up to 20 kilograms.
Named after the mythological pet rabbit of Chang’e, China’s moon fairy, it is designed to collect soil samples, survey the moon’s geological structure and search for resources.