Chinese rover Zhurong enters standby. The solar-powered rover has entered a dormant state due to the winter cold and local sand and dust storms. Pride of the CNSA agency has been collecting spectacular data and images of the red planet for about a year.
The Chinese rover Zhurong in hibernation
Chinese rover Zhurong is in hibernation since May 18, with temperatures around -20 degrees Celsius during the Martian day and -100 degrees Celsius at night, according to statements from the exploration program’s engineers. The Chinese orbiter Tianwen-1, which delivered Zhurong to Mars last May, also detected sand and dust storm activity in the Utopia Planitia area with its medium-resolution camera.
Fortunately, the Chinese rover has some tricks up its sleeve. Its unique design is designed to help it withstand the challenges of winter temperatures and sand and dust storms. These measures include the ability to tilt its solar panels to maximize solar light collection. But the panels also mount a special coating that promotes less dust adherence.
But the Chinese rover is not the only one in a complex situation. NASA‘s InSight lander, which arrived on the Red Planet in November 2018, is also struggling to produce enough solar energy to continue operations. On the other hand, NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers can continue their missions on the Martian surface regardless of the seasons. The last two NASA rovers are powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators and are not affected by environmental conditions.
The Chinese rover is expected to resume activities in December, with the beginning of spring in the Martian northern hemisphere and the reduction of local sandstorms. In addition, Zhurong will be able to detect seasonal changes autonomously without receiving commands from Earth. Some instruments will evaluate the increase in solar energy levels and allow the instruments to reactivate