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Chinese lunar rover Jade Rabbit still alive, despite famous last words

Image taken by the on-board camera of the lunar probe Chang'e-3 of China's first moon rover 'Yutu' - or Jade Rabbit - on the lunar surface on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. It was the world's first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades. But the rover malfunctioned in late January, sending out distress messages. (AP Photo / Xinhua)

China’s lunar rover Jade Rabbit is still alive and kicking.

The plucky rover, which famously sent out a dying message in January, is severely handicapped but is still functioning, Chinese authorities said Monday.

Sent to the moon by China to study its surface and mineral resources, Jade Rabbit experienced unexpected malfunctions six weeks into its operation.

Before entering the second moon night in late January, Jade Rabbit sent out a mournful last message that it had run into some problem and that “I know I might not survive this moon night.” The rover's missives caught worldwide attention and made even more famous after a dramatic rendition of its plight by actor Patrick Stewart in a tin foil dress on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Since then, it has been unable to move farther and entered into a deep “coma” that lasted for about 50 days before waking up in mid-March. (Because the rover is solar powered, it entered a hibernation mode during the long period of lunar night when there was no sunlight.)

The 140-kilogram, six-wheeled rover was designed with a life expectancy of three months.

Chinese experts said Monday that the rabbit appears to have tripped over some rocks--the whole surface of the moon is like a quarry, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Still, Chinese authorities praised Jade Rabbit for being "much stronger than expected."

"Yutu has 'over-served' its time on the moon and sent lots of data back to Earth. We hope it can continue to work miracles," Zhang Yuhua, deputy chief designer of the lunar probe system, told Xinhua.

William Wan is the Post's roving national correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. He previously served as the paper’s religion reporter and diplomatic correspondent and for three years as the Post’s China correspondent in Beijing.



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