China's Jade Rabbit moon rover awake but still malfunctioning

BEIJING - China's Jade Rabbit moon rover has endured a long lunar night but is still malfunctioning, state media said on Thursday, after technical problems last month cast uncertainty over the country's first moon landing.

Jade Rabbit, named after a lunar goddess in traditional Chinese mythology, landed to domestic fanfare in mid-December, on a mission to do geological surveys and hunt natural resources.

The moon buggy began experiencing "mechanical control abnormalities" late in January, when entering its second 14-day lunar night, a period that exposes the surface to extreme cold.

Scientists had said the outcome of the repair efforts would be unclear until the rover emerged from the period of darkness, during which it is supposed to shut down.

But after awakening this week, Jade Rabbit is still not functioning properly, China National Radio said, citing Pei Zhaoyu, a spokesman for the lunar probe programme. "It's awake. We have a signal. But the problem still hasn't been resolved," Pei said, but gave no further details.

Experts are still working to fix the rover, the official Xinhua news agency said.

China has been increasingly ambitious in developing its space programmes for military, commercial and scientific purposes. But it is still playing catch-up to established space superpowers the United States and Russia.

The Jade Rabbit, and the Chang'e 3 probe that delivered it, marked the first "soft landing" on the moon since 1976, before which both the United States and the Soviet Union accomplished the feat.

The United States has successfully landed four rovers on Mars, two of which are still active. The decade-old Opportunity recently found evidence that life-friendly fresh water once pooled on the red planet's surface.