Adoring fans cheer on Jade Rabbit Moon rover

A photograph of the giant screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows photo of the Yutu, or Jade Rabbit lunar rover, taken by the camera on the Chang'e 3 probe during the mutual-photograph process, in Beijing, 15 December 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jade Rabbit, named after the mythical pet of China's Moon goddess, is equipped with multiple cameras

"It's alive!! The rabbit is still alive!! The rabbit's awake!! It's really awake!!", wrote one user on weibo, China's version of Twitter.

"Wake up darling baby," cooed another. "Billions of people are calling out to you!"

What, pray tell, were they speaking to?

China's Moon rover, of course.

The Jade Rabbit, named after the mythical pet of China's Moon goddess, has captured the attention of millions in China.

The six-wheeled exploration vehicle is equipped with cutting-edge radars that allow it to study the Moon's crust. Multiple cameras on the rover's exterior allow it to photograph its surroundings and beam them back to Earth.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Chinese state media said Jade Rabbit's weibo is managed by "space enthusiasts" following its journey

However, perhaps the Chinese Space Agency's biggest triumph is the subtle PR campaign it has built around its lunar mission.

By dubbing their rover the Jade Rabbit, scientists didn't just give their machine a name; they also gave it a personality.

Jade Rabbit has its own account on weibo, so it can interact on a very personal level with its 377,000 followers.

"I thought I could hop around here for three months, but if this trip ends prematurely, I'm not afraid," read the Jade Rabbit's final message before shutting down in January.

"I'll tell everyone a little secret: I'm actually not that sad. I'm just on my own adventure and like any protagonist, I have encountered a little problem. Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humans."

According to Chinese state media, the account is administered by "space enthusiasts who have been following the Jade Rabbit's journey to the Moon", though it's clear the authors are closely-connected to China's normally tight-lipped space programme.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There has been tender outpouring of adoration for China's Moon rover

"Hi, is anyone there?" asked the rabbit, in its first new tweet after its two-week dormancy.

Hours later, it wrote, "It's going to be mid-day on the Moon here in a few days. I really want you guys to see the stars here."

This isn't the first attempt to anthropomorphise a space vehicle, giving it human characteristics to make it more understandable and approachable.

The US space programme Nasa's rover, Curiosity, tweets friendly updates from the surface of Mars to more than 1.5 million followers.

But the tender outpouring of adoration many in China have exhibited for the Jade Rabbit is new.

In the past, few people felt connected to China's space ambitions. Now, millions are cheering for the country's space bunny to hop to the end of its mission.

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