• Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023

Chinese scientists hold out hope for silent Zhurong Mars rover


Mar 18, 2023

China’s Mars rover may perhaps be stuck, but scientists applying information from the mission are nonetheless hopeful that the automobile can reactivate and discover when additional.

Zhurong, which is aspect of China’s Tianwen 1 Mars mission, landed in Utopia Planitia in Could 2021. The rover entered a dormant mode in Could 2022, successfully permitting 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 situations had been additional favorable for the solar-powered automobile. That has not occurred. 

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Nevertheless, 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 perhaps nonetheless be hope for Zhurong.

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

The MRO pictures show that “it is covered by the sand and the dust, so it undoubtedly hurts its capability to transform sunlight to electrical energy,” Xu stated. 

“We have to wait, simply because now it is spring, and later, that’d be the summer time season on Mars. Then it ought to obtain additional sunlight and the temperature also increases,” Yi stated. “When the battery is totally charged, then the rover or the instrument may perhaps operate once again.”

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

The rover was anticipated to wake up autonomously when two situations are met. These are crucial elements reaching a temperature of higher than five degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 degrees Celsius) and power generation of higher than 140 watts.

Xu is a co-author of a current paper that applied information from Zhurong’s ground-penetrating radar to develop a image of the layers straight away under the Martian surface and reveal complicated layering.

Irrespective of whether or not Zhurong rises once again, the mission currently exceeded its planned lifetime of 3 Earth months. The rover has also, like its companion Tianwen 1 orbiter, completed its principal science objectives.

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