Chinese scientists hope for silent Zhurong Mars rover: report

Chinese scientists hope the Zhurong Mars rover, which has been put into sleep mode due to storms hitting Mars, can operate again, the media reported.

The Zhurong rover is part of the Tianwen-1 mission that landed on Mars in May 2021 in southern Utopia Planitia.

According to the China National Space Administration, the rover went into sleep mode in May last year while waiting for a dust storm to hit the planet’s surface.

During the winter season, Zurong faces temperatures that drop below minus 20 degrees Celsius during the day while the nighttime dips below minus 100 degrees Celsius.

The dusty weather and extremely low ambient temperature in winter also lead to a reduction in the power generation capacity of the solar wing.

The rover should wake up in December as weather conditions improve as Mars’ northern hemisphere enters spring.

But images taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed that the “rover remained stationary between September 8, 2022 and February 7, 2023,” reported.

Based on the orbital images, “It’s covered by sand and dust, so it’s definitely affecting its ability to convert sunlight into electricity,” Yi Xu, an associate professor at the Space Science Institute of Macau University of Science and Technology, was quoted as saying.

To adapt to the infamous dust storms on Mars, Zhurong’s solar panels were designed like butterfly wings to allow dust to be blown away. It’s also equipped with a mechanism that allows it to flip its panels over to clear accumulated dirt, but to do this the rover needs to be powered on.

In January, the South China Morning Post reported that Chinese scientists were still waiting for a signal from Zhurong and that sandstorms had hampered the rover’s ability to generate electricity with its solar panels.

Zhurong can automatically resume operation when its power level reaches over 140 watts and the temperature of its components, such as B. its battery, rises above minus 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We have to wait because now is spring and later would be the summer season on Mars. Then it should get more sunlight and the temperature will also rise,” Yi said.

“When the battery is fully charged, the rover or the instrument can work again.

Meanwhile, Beijing and authorities have remained silent on the rover’s status, even though it celebrated the second anniversary of its Mars mission Tianwen-1 in orbit last month.



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