by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Mar 06, 2014
In contrast to how much of an influence the virtual persona of China's first moon rover has made on social media home and abroad, little is known about the people behind the loveable character.
An unverified user named "Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover", who posts messages in the first-person of the rover, went viral on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo in the past three months. More than 590,000 users have followed it, with posts frequently retweeted thousands of times.
The account is believed to belong to space enthusiasts who have been following the rover's journey. Its popularity has even reached out to its "masters" -- a title that Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, uses to refer to space scientists in China's lunar missions.
"It is a sweetheart for all of us," Ye Peijian, a top scientist with the Chang'e-3 program, the country's lunar probe mission, told Xinhua.
Ye said he has no idea who has been running the account, but posts about the mission have been generally accurate.
"We have never thought of spreading scientific knowledge in this manner," Ye said. "It is meaningful to spread important aerospace news in a light-hearted way, and to make people care."
In some 200 posts so far, the account has updated the journey, posted photographs, explained space knowledge, and shared unsettling setbacks.
"Ah... I'm broken," Yutu said in an update on Jan. 25 after authorities announced a mechanical control problem because of the "complicated lunar surface environment." The post was retweeted more than 50,000 times.
Its sentimental farewell "good night, Earth; good night, humanity" before entering a planned two-week dormancy in late January attracted attention from foreign media including AFP, AP and CNN. Ye said his friends in France and Switzerland sent newspaper clippings about local media reports on the Yutu Weibo.
To many people's surprise, Yutu "woke up" to a status capable of receiving signals -- although some control problems remain unresolved -- on Feb. 12. "Hi, anybody there?" the account asked, prompting over 60,000 reposts and 40,000 comments within hours.
Ye described Yutu as a character with a "delicate, human touch." "China's aerospace missions, led by the state, should let individuals and society feel more involved," he said.
Ye said the Yutu Weibo helped people to understand the work researchers and staff in the aerospace industry are doing.
"Some netizens said Yutu has shouldered too heavy a burden and asked not to increase it any more. This is very encouraging for those working on the space mission," said the scientist, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body.
Meanwhile, Yutu is in its third planned dormancy, which began on Feb. 23. In this period, the temperature falls below minus 180 degrees Celsius on the lunar surface and the rover has to stay in a power-off mode.
The rover's radar, panorama camera and infrared imaging equipment can function normally, but the control circuit malfunction that has troubled it since January persists.
"Scientists are trying to 'treat' the moon rover," Ye said, who expects Yutu to "wake up" again after the hibernation.
"My masters are trying hard to find a solution," the Jade Rabbit Weibo said earlier in a posting. "They stay up all night and I have heard their eyes are becoming as red as mine."
Ye explained that scientists had to stay up every night in the last dormancy to work during limited time slots to fix the rover.
"We hope it can live on," Ye said. "Even if we had to work every night, we would be willing to."
Yutu touched down on the moon's surface on Dec. 15, a few hours after lunar probe Chang'e-3 landed. It was expected to stay on the moon for at least three months following the landing.
Source: Xinhua News Agency
China National Space Administration
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|