In 2020, China launched the Tianwen-1 mission to Mars, and on February 10, 2021, it entered the orbit of the planet. In addition to the orbiter, it included the Zhuzhong rover, which made a soft landing and transmitted several frames after it. Since then, there has been little news about the rover, but this was easily explained by the general closeness of the Chinese space program.
American journalists noted that on February 10, Chinese state-run media released materials to mark the second anniversary of the spacecraft’s entry into Mars orbit. They listed the achievements of the Tianwen-1 mission, but there was practically no mention of the Zhuzhong – at first glance, the device was more interesting to the general public. It is noted that the rover entered sleep mode in May 2022 due to a decrease in the amount of available solar energy caused by winter in the northern hemisphere of Mars. Zhurong was expected to wake up in December, around the time of the vernal equinox, but China and its space officials have remained silent on the rover’s status.
According to the mission design, Zhurong will wake up on its own if two conditions are met: a temperature above -15 degrees Celsius and a power output of more than 140 watts. At the same time, unlike Curiosity and Perseverance, the Chinese device does not have radioisotope heaters, and therefore it is forced to rely on chemical methods of keeping heat with a limited power reserve. Observers believe the dust storms in Utopia Plain may have affected the rover’s ability to generate heat.
At the same time, despite the likely problems with the rover, the orbiter performs its tasks in the normal mode.