Since hunkering down to attempt to survive the harsh Martian winter, China’s Zhurong Mars rover has remained silent for over a year. Back in December, the rover was supposed to awaken, but it never did. China has now released an official update on the Zhurong rover after going silent for several months.
According to Reuters, China’s lead designer of its Mars exploration program, Zhang Rongqiao, stated that “we have not received any signal from the rover since it entered slumber.” The same story mentions that undiscovered dust may have prevented the rover from receiving sunlight, according to Chinese media broadcasts.
According to the most recent report, China believes that the Zhurong rover has not yet awoken and spoken with Earth because not enough sunlight is reaching it to provide it with enough power. This is a typical problem for Martian solar-powered spacecraft. Similar issues caused NASA’s Insight Lander to shut down last year.
As initial reports of difficulty with the Chinese Mars rover started to surface in January, this outcome was foreseen for the Zhurong Mars rover. Images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in the wake of those allegations revealed the rover to remain in the same location as when it had entered slumber.
It is therefore not unexpected that China has waited this long to provide an official announcement about the status of the Zhurong Mars rover. When it comes to its space projects, China has traditionally kept things close to the vest, typically only disclosing when it truly wanted to.
Nonetheless, it is disheartening to discover that another spacecraft has plunged to its death in the Red Planet’s sand dunes. Because they rely on a different kind of power source than the Zhurong rover and NASA’s Insight Lander, the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers continue to operate flawlessly.