Beijing: The first Chinese rover on Mars may not be able to restart itself after a longer-than-expected hibernation since last May, according to the Planetary Exploration of China (or Tianwen), a program conducted by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Asia Times reported.
The Zhurong rover was launched in the Tianwen 1 mission in July 2020. It landed on the surface of Mars on May 15, 2021. It entered sleep mode on May 18 last year to save power during the winter. It was supposed to wake up last December but it failed. Chief designer of Planetary Exploration of China, Zhang Rongqiao, said: "Our analysis is that the rover has suffered from dust accumulation, which curbed its solar power generation ability, resulting in insufficient electricity to reboot itself."
When the dust accumulation on solar panels reaches 20 per cent, the rover's power generation ability declines. When it reaches 30 per cent, the rover can generate power only if the sunlight is very strong. When it reaches 40 per cent, it may not wake up again," Zhang said.
He said Zhurong has already been operated on Mars for 358 sols (367 Earth days), beating its target of 90 days.
Tianwen 3, the next Mars mission of the Planetary Exploration of China, will be launched in 2028 and deliver samples to Earth in 2030 or 2031. If successful, it will be two to three years earlier than the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Mars Sample Return campaign, which will bring rock samples to Earth in 2033, according to Asia Times.