BEIJING, March 3 -- 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.