China is still silent about the fate of the Zhurong rover amid the second anniversary of the Tianwen-1 mission.
The first Chinese interplanetary spacecraft Tianwen-1 reached Mars on February 10, 2021. It consisted of an orbiter and a lander, which was brought to the surface of Mars in May of the same year by the Zhurong rover. This mission is already two years old, but against the backdrop of this event, China still has not provided any information about what happened to the rover, which has not shown “signs of life” for two months and what condition it is in now, writes Space .
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China’s Zhurong rover went into sleep mode last May as the amount of sunlight needed to power its batteries decreased. This was due to the arrival of winter in the northern hemisphere of Mars.
As Focus already wrote , the Zhurong rover was supposed to come out of “winter hibernation” as early as the 20th of December 2022, but this did not happen and no signals were received from the device after a couple of weeks. The initial speculation, which was voiced by Chinese scientists on condition of anonymity, was that the rover might not survive the season of severe dust storms on Mars. That is, its solar panels could be covered with a thick layer of dust, which means that the batteries did not receive enough solar energy for the device to wake up from the “sleep” mode. In early January of this year, there was no official information from China about the state of the rover.The PRC continues to remain silent about what happened to the rover and whether it is in working condition, because it was reported that the Tianwen-1 orbiter would be connected to observe it. In the Chinese state media, information only appeared that it was already 2 years old of China’s Mars mission, but the Zhurong rover was mentioned only in passing. Also, no new images of this device have been published.
It is known that the Zhurong rover was supposed to return to Mars exploration when the air temperature here rises to -15 degrees Celsius (this is a significant increase in temperature compared to the cold conditions of the Martian winter, when here it can be up to -100 degrees Celsius) and when the power level its battery life reaches 140 watts. According to the forecasts of Chinese scientists, these conditions should have been met at the end of December 2022.
Experts interviewed by Space say that dust storms in the Utopia plain, where Zhurong is located, could have affected the fact that the rover did not continue its work and did not send any signals to Earth. But still there is hope that the temperature on Mars will continue to rise, and strong winds will remove dust from its solar panels.
It remains to wait for official reports from China about what happened to the rover and whether it will be able to continue its work. But in any case, the Tianwen 1 mission itself can be considered successful. China has become the second country in the world, after the United States, to land a rover on the Red Planet. Both the Tianwen 1 orbiter and the Zhurong rover have already completed their main missions, although the vehicle in orbit continues its observations of Mars.