China’s space agency has yet to comment on Zhurong’s status, but state media dismissed reports of problems with the rover as “high-profile.” The negative coverage is said to be politically motivated and a way to “undermine” the progress of China’s space program.
The Mars Jeep lifted off from the Red Planet’s lander on May 22, 2021. China became the first country to successfully orbit, land and send a ground vehicle on its maiden voyage to Mars.
But now there are fears that Zhurong may not have survived the heavy sandstorms, as too much sand got into the shade sails. “It wouldn’t be surprising if the rover didn’t wake up from hibernation. It runs on solar power and there’s a long history of solar flares and rovers on Mars that have run out of power,” David Flannery of the Queensland University of Technology told the paper. Nature. Flannery is part of the team behind America’s Mars Endurance Jeep.
Some experts remain optimistic and expect temperatures to rise further and solar cells will still be able to absorb enough sunlight. “It’s too early to say that something is wrong,” said Baptiste Chide, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Also participate in Endurance.
However, the fact that China’s space program has not spoken up is “strange,” said an employee of Zhurong’s team, who asked not to be named.
The Chinese mission is already considered a success, as all planned projects have been implemented. The rover traversed the Martian surface about 2 kilometers, collecting many scientific discoveries, found traces of ancient water deposits and worked for three months longer than expected.
China is the third country to successfully land a spacecraft on the Red Planet. Initially, only the Soviet Union and the United States were successful. Only Americans were also able to drive a vehicle to Mars.