Chinese rover has problems

The Chinese rover “Zhurong” faced technical problems. According to some sources, it failed to get out of hibernation mode, which might lead to the end of its mission. 

China’s First Rover

Zhurong is the first rover of the Celestial Empire. It landed on the Red Planet in May 2021. The weight of the six-wheeled spacecraft is 240 kg, it receives energy from solar panels. The main purpose of the mobile laboratory is to study the Martian soil and search for chemical compounds indicating the possible presence of life. To do this, it has six scientific instruments, including ground-penetrating radar, detectors of surface compounds and magnetic fields, a weather station, as well as several cameras.

Zhurong rover selfie. Source: CNSA

Nominally, the Zhurong was designed for three months of service. But thanks to the more than successful results of the work, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) extended its mission. 

In total, in the period from 2021 to 2022, Zhurong covered a distance of almost 2000 meters. During this time, it transmitted hundreds of gigabytes of data to Earth, including images, the results of studying surface rocks and the atmosphere, as well as meteorological observations. The analysis of its data, in particular, revealed traces of ancient floods. In addition, the rover recorded the sounds of its own movement and photographed its landing parachute.

Problems of the Zhurong rover and the Tianwen-1 spacecraft

In May 2022, Zhurong was put into hibernation mode. This happened due to two main reasons. Firstly, winter began in the region where the rover was located. Secondly, a fairly powerful dust storm began on Mars, which made the Zhurong solar panels begin to produce less energy.

The Zhurong rover and the descent platform. Source: CNSA

It was assumed that the rover would be in sleep mode until mid-December, after which it would get in touch again and resume the scientific program. However, this never happened. According to the South China Morning Post, the MCC has not yet received a signal from the rover. This may indicate that it did not survive the winter.

Moreover, problems could arise with the Tianwen-1 orbiter, which was used to relay data from Zhurong. According to the South China Morning Post, referring to anonymous sources in the Chinese industry, the MCC had problems keeping in touch with the device. This is indirectly confirmed by the results of recent observations of satellite spotters, noting that the nature of the radio signals of ground stations suggests that they are unable to “grope” the orbit of Tianwen-1.

Tianwen-1 selfie. Source: CNSA

It is possible that the problem with the Tianwen-1 may be related to the consequences of the experiment conducted at the end of last year to test the technique of air braking. It is used to change the orbit of the spacecraft by reducing its speed by braking against the upper atmosphere, which saves fuel. China plans to use this technique as part of its future mission to deliver soil samples of the Red Planet to Earth. It is worth noting that CNSA has not made any official comments on the status of both Martian spacecraft yet.

According to

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time