NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, orbiting the Red Planet, photographed China’s Zhurong rover not moving for months, staying in the same place.
Zhurong, China’s first Mars rover to land on another planet, has been dormant for a while. China put the car to sleep less than a year ago. It was revealed by NASA’s orbiter Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that the rover, which should be awakened in December, is still asleep.
China’s Mars Rover Couldn’t Wake Up From Sleep
The images released Tuesday were captured by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. In the photo below, there are three scenes side by side, and they consist of images from March 11, 2022, September 8, 2022 and February 7, 2023, respectively. China put the vehicle into hibernation mode in May 2022 and said it would wake up in late December with the start of the Martian spring.
However, the complete silence of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) after December has raised some doubts about the vehicle. It is unclear why the vehicle did not reactivate, but it is thought that due to the storms during the winter season, Zhurong’s solar panels may have been turned off and sufficient energy was not provided.
On the other hand, NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance instruments can also generate power during the Martian winter using a radioisotope power system. There is no nuclear radioisotope power unit inside Zhurong. So the only way for energy is solar panels.
China’s Zhurong vehicle is part of the country’s first interplanetary mission, Tianwen-1. With the mission launched in 2020, the data transmission satellite Tianwen-1 was first placed in orbit of the planet. Then, leaving the orbiting vehicle, Zhurong landed in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars and began exploration work. The vehicle traveled 1,921 meters before falling asleep.