Chinese Scientists Hope Mars Explorer Zhurong Revives


Chinese scientists hope the Mars planetary rover Zhurong can be reactivated and explore the red planet. Photo/China News Service

BEIJING – Chinese scientists hope the Mars planetary rover Zhurong can be reactivated and explore the red planet. The Zhurong rover entered inactive mode in May 2022, due to the northern Martian winter.

Zhurong is part of Mars China’s Tianwen 1 mission, landing on Utopia Planitia in May 2021. However, the Zhurong rover is expected to experience a bottleneck because it has not resumed activities independently in December 2022.

Even though December is the northern spring equinox of Mars. At that time the temperature and lighting conditions are more favorable for solar powered vehicles. However, Zhurong was still frozen in place.

However, Yi Xu, a professor at the Space Science Institute at Macau University of Science and Technology, told VICE World News that Zhurong may still have hope for a comeback.

China has yet to comment on the Zhurong’s status, but images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) prove the rover has remained quiet for a while. “The MRO pictures show that the Zhurong is covered in sand and dust, so it seriously impairs its ability to convert sunlight into electricity,” Xu said.

The Zhurong has active means of cleaning its solar panels, but its period of inactivity in an area prone to dust storms appears to be affecting its ability to generate electricity and retain heat. Zhurong did not have a radioisotope heating unit, like other rovers including China’s Yutu moon rover.

“We have to wait, because it’s spring now, and later, it’s summer on Mars. So Mars will receive more sunlight and its temperature will also increase,” said Yi.

The Zhurong Explorer is expected to wake up independently when two conditions are met. Major components that reach temperatures of over 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 degrees Celsius) and generate energy greater than 140 watts. “When the battery is fully charged, the rover or instruments can operate again,” said Yi.


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