The wheels and the solar panel of China's Jade Rabbit moon rover no longer work

China's Jade Rabbit Moon rover on its last legs

China says bitterly cold lunar nights have "weakened considerably" the Jade Rabbit Moon rover’s ability to operate.

The buggy is alive and functional, said the official Xinhua state news agency citing deputy commander-in-chief of China's lunar programme Li Bengzheng, and it is still able to send data back to Earth using the Chang'e 3 probe that delivered it.

But the craft's functionality is progressively deteriorating "with each lunar night", Li said, adding that the buggy's wheels and the solar panel designed for thermal insulation during the frozen lunar nights no longer work.

Jade Rabbit, named after a lunar goddess in traditional Chinese mythology, landed on the Moon in December to great national fanfare, but the buggy began experiencing "mechanical control abnormalities" in late January.

It is on a mission to conduct geological surveys and hunt for natural resources as part of China’s push to develop its space programme for military, commercial and scientific purposes.

The Jade Rabbit and the Chang'e 3 probe marked the first "soft landing" on the Moon since 1976. Beforehand, both the USA and the Soviet Union accomplished the feat.

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