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Chinese rover didn't come out of hibernation in time - it could be lost.

Published: 2023-01-07

It is reported that the Chinese rover Zhurong has not yet made contact after the scheduled awakening expected in the twentieth of December. The device was put into hibernation on May 18, 2022, since the winter period with frequent dust storms began on Mars in the area of ​​the landing of the rover at that time. Zhurong's solar panels could not generate enough electricity to run the onboard systems, and the craft was put into sleep mode.

To wake up the rover, at least two conditions had to be met: the power generated by the solar panels had to reach at least 140 watts, and the temperature of the batteries had to be above -15 ° C. For visual control of the approximate state of the rover, scientists expected to hold the Tianwen-1 orbital probe over it. The probe's two high-resolution cameras could give a first impression of the rover's position, but for an unspecified reason, the probe's control program could not be changed, although they tried.

The Zhurong rover arrived on the Red Planet in May 2021. The scientific program of the device was designed for three months. The rover worked there for an Earth year, covering about 2 km during this time. For the Chinese space program, this has been a huge success. Apart from the United States, no other country was able to deliver a rover to Mars that would work there and travel around the neighborhood. And even if the Zhurong batteries do not thaw, and the dust on the solar panels will not allow it to gain the necessary power, the device has already completed the task for which it was intended. The next one will be more reliable.