It might have been a deadlier December than expected on Mars. After the expected (but still sad) demise of NASA’s InSight, another robotic explorer might have been claimed by dust and low winter light. Zhurong. The Chinese mission, arrived around Mars at the same time as NASA’s Perseverance, landing a few months later. Its exploration went beyond the planned mission, although last May it had to be stopped.
Facing increasing dust storms and the cold winter, mission specialists made the decision to have Zhurong hibernate for six months. It is now reported by unnamed sources to the South China Morning Post that Zhurong is not waking up. We hope that the rover is just hitting the snooze button for a little longer – but historically, it doesn’t look good. Accumulation of dust on their solar panels is what led to the demise of both Spirit and Opportunity.
If this wasn’t enough, the Chinese space agency is allegedly struggling to get in touch with the orbiter part of the mission, Tianwen-1. This is a multi-purpose satellite that has so far conducted very intriguing observations of the Red Planet.
While the achievements of both Zhurong and Tianwen-1 have been impressive, the loss of either or both would be sad for Martian exploration.
[h/t: South China Morning Post]