• Fri. Mar 24th, 2023

Chinese scientists hold out hope for silent Zhurong Mars rover


Mar 18, 2023

China’s Mars rover may possibly be stuck, but scientists operating with information and facts from the mission are nonetheless hopeful that the automobile can reactivate and uncover as quickly as a lot much more.

Zhurong, which is portion of China’s Tianwen 1 Mars mission, landed in Utopia Planitia in Could possibly 2021. The rover entered a dormant mode in Could possibly 2022, adequately enabling it to hibernate for the duration of winter in the planet’s northern hemisphere. 

It was supposed to autonomously resume activities in December final year, about the time of Mars’ northern spring equinox, when temperatures and lighting scenarios had been a lot much more favorable for the solar-powered automobile. That has not occurred. 

Related: The most current news about China’s space technique

Nonetheless, Yi Xu, an associate professor at the Space Science Institute at Macau University of Science and Technologies, told (opens in new tab) VICE Planet News that there may possibly nonetheless be hope for Zhurong.

China has not commented on the status of Zhurong, but photos from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) prove the rover has remained stationary for a when. 

The MRO photos show that “it actually is covered by the sand and the dust, so it unquestionably hurts its capability to transform sunlight to electrical power,” Xu talked about. 

“We have to wait, for the purpose that now it actually is spring, and later, that’d be the summer time season season on Mars. Then it must actually acquire a lot much more sunlight and the temperature also increases,” Yi talked about. “When the battery is entirely charged, then the rover or the instrument may possibly operate after much more.”

Zhurong has active suggests of cleaning its solar arrays, but its period of inactivity in an place prone to dust storms has apparently impacted its capability to make electrical power and retain heat. Zhurong does not have a radioisotope heater unit, like other rovers like China’s Yutu moon explorers, but as an option has a pair of “windows” enabling a chemical named n-undecane to shop heat energy.

The rover was anticipated to wake up autonomously when two scenarios are met. These are vital components reaching a temperature of greater than 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 degrees Celsius) and energy generation of greater than 140 watts.

Xu is a co-author of a present paper that produced use of information and facts from Zhurong’s ground-penetrating radar to develop a image of the layers promptly beneath the Martian surface and reveal complex layering.

Regardless of whether or not or not Zhurong rises after much more, the mission at present exceeded its planned lifetime of three Earth months. The rover has also, like its companion Tianwen 1 orbiter, completed its crucial science targets.

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