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China finally breaks silence over ‘dormant’ Mars rover

Published Apr 25th, 2023 10:08PM EDT

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It’s been almost a year since China’s Zhurong Mars rover went silent, hunkering down to try and survive the harsh Martian winter. The rover was intended to wake up back in December, but it never did. Now, after months of silence, China has finally provided an official update on the Zhurong rover.

“We have not had any communication from the rover since it entered hibernation,” said Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China’s Mars exploration program, according to Reuters. That same report notes that Chinese television broadcasts report an unseen pile of dust may have blocked sunlight from the rover.

The latest update also notes that China believes that the Zhurong rover has yet to wake up and communicate back home due to the sunlight not reaching it enough to generate enough power. This is a common issue for spacecraft that rely on solar power on Mars. NASA’s Insight Lander shut down last year due to similar problems.

China's Martian rover sits unmoving next to a crater on Mars
The dark blueish dot next to the crater in images two and three showcase the rover’s resting place. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona

This ending was predicted for the Zhurong Mars rover in January when first reports began to appear that the Chinese Martian rover was in trouble. Those reports were later followed up with images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which showed the rover in the same place where it had gone into hibernation.

It isn’t surprising that it has taken China this long to give any official statement on the current state of the Zhurong Mars rover, either. China has always played things close to the chest when it comes to its space endeavors, usually only sharing when they really want to.

Still, it is disappointing to see that yet another spacecraft has gone dead in the water on the sandy dunes of the Red Planet. NASA’s Perseverance and Curiosity rovers continue to work perfectly, though they rely on a different type of power source than the Zhurong rover and NASA’s Insight Lander.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.