China’s Zhurong Rover, which has been exploring the surface of Mars since May 2021, has reportedly succumbed to the harsh winter and dust storms on Mars.
In 2022 May, Zhurong entered Hibernation Mode ahead of the Northern Hemisphere of Mars entering winter.
The rover was hibernate to avoid damage to the electronic parts due to the drop in temperature during the Martian winter and the power hardware produced by the solar panels would not be enough.
Images taken by NASA’s MRO Orbiter and China’s Tinwen Orbiter showed that dust storms were blowing over the area when the rover was hibernating. Dusty solar panels can also be seen in the selfie sent by Zhurong Rover.
It was hoped that the rover would wake up from hibernation mode in December 2022 when the temperature in the region rises, but so far that has not happened.
Images of Zhurong taken by NASA’s MRO Orbiter and China’s Tianwen Orbiter show that the rover traveled a distance of 1.7 km in about a year. The rover’s position does not appear to have changed in the MOM images taken in September 2022 and February 2023. The Chinese Space Agency has not released any new information about the progress of the mission since May 2022.
In the February 2023 image, the rover’s color has changed. It can be assumed that the power output will not be sufficient to come out of Hibernation Mode because of the accumulation of dust on the Solar Panels.
The report quoting Chinese sources is that Zhurong will wake up from hibernation only when the temperature reaches above -15 degree Celsius.
Perseverance Rover is 1600 Km away from Zhurong in the Northern Hemisphere of Mars, but at a low latitude, it can be seen on NASA’s site that the temperature is still close to -80 degree Celsius. The further north you go, the lower the temperature.
Zhurong is still hibernating because of the low temperature, but when the temperature rises, if the dust on the solar panel blocks the sun, Zhurong’s return will be difficult.
Let’s wait and see if Zhurong comes back.