April 23, 2024

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China is finally opening up about its malfunctioning Mars rover

China is finally opening up about its malfunctioning Mars rover

The Chinese probe took a selfie on the surface of Mars next to the probe shortly after it reached the red planet.

The Chinese probe took a selfie on the surface of Mars next to the probe shortly after it reached the red planet.
picture: China National Space Administration

About a year ago, the Chinese rover Zhurong gathered on Mars to avoid the harsh winter season on the dusty planet. Unfortunately, Zhurong Until now Failed to revive itself from hibernation. One of the mission designers recently revealed that dust buildup on the rover’s solar panels could be the culprit Her unresponsive condition.

“We haven’t received any communication from the rover since it entered hibernation,” Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China’s Mars exploration program, told China’s state-owned CCTV. Reuters. “We watch it every day and we think it hasn’t woken up because the sunlight hasn’t yet reached its energy generation threshold.”

Zurong It went into hibernation in May 2022 and was scheduled to wake up in late December. In February, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured images of the rover over time, revealing that It was the Martian robot He didn’t move from the same spot Since I entered low power safe mode. However, the Chinese space agency did not share any updates on the rover until a recent interview with Rongqiao.

Winter on Mars also includes sand and dust storms that block the rover’s solar panels, preventing them from harvesting sunlight for power generation. This is why Zhurong has gone into hibernation, but the Martian dust may still be able to block the rover’s solar panels and prevent it from exiting safe mode. The two other rovers currently roaming Mars, NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance, can work through the Martian winter using Radioisotope energy system.

Zurong landed on Mars on May 14, 2021 as China’s first Mars mission. The rover was sent to Mars by the Tianwen-1 orbiter, which transmits data between the rover and ground controllers on Earth. The rover was originally scheduled to spend only 90 days exploring the Martian terrain but it has far exceeded its initial schedule.

It is not yet clear if Zhurong will be able to generate enough power to wake him up from his slumber or if he is dooming the rover to its unresponsiveness. low power condition.

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