China’s Zhurong rover mission has been extended

Shane McGlaun - Aug 23, 2021, 7:09am CDT
China’s Zhurong rover mission has been extended

China has been operating a rover on the surface of Mars since it landed on the Red Planet on May 14. The rover has now completed its primary mission after completing 90 Martian days, equating to about 92 days here on Earth. Each Martian day lasts about 24 hours and 40 minutes.

During its time on Mars, China’s rover has cruised across the surface for 2917 feet and has analyzed rocks and other features on the service of the planet during its travels. In addition, China has shared images from its rover showing the terrain it is currently investigating. The section of Mars the rover is currently exploring is believed to be the bottom of an ancient lake.

The six scientific instruments aboard the rover are still working well, and it’s still sending back data using the Chinese Tianwen 1 spacecraft as a relay. Since landing on the planet, Zhurong has sent back ten gigabytes of data. Since it landed on the planet, the orbiter has been passing over the rover’s location on the planet’s surface once per day to support the relaying of information back to Earth.

China notes the orbiter and rover will enter safe mode from the middle of September until late October. The spacecraft’s entry into safe mode is being done because a solar conjunction will prevent communications between Earth and Mars. NASA will also be unable to communicate with the Curiosity and Perseverance Rover during a similar timeframe.

Once communications are possible again, Zhurong will continue moving towards a feature that mission controllers want to investigate called “groove.” That feature is about one mile away from the rover’s current location. Despite finishing its current scientific mission, the rover will continue to explore Mars for an undetermined amount of time. Presumably, China will continue to operate the rover as long as it continues to function.


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