On Mars, the disturbing silence of the Chinese robot Zhurong

On Mars the disturbing silence of the Chinese robot Zhurong

What becomes of Zhurong? The Chinese robot landed on the planet Mars no longer responds. The first non-American spacecraft to carry out a mission on the surface of the red planet, it had gone into hibernation to face the winter. But since his supposed date of awakening, he has not given any sign of life.

As on Earth, Mars experiences seasonal cycles. Except that on the red planet, winters last twice as long. And who says winter says less sun, which is annoying when it comes to a rover that needs it to recharge its batteries.

It is for this reason that the CNSA, the Chinese space agency, in May 2022 asked Zhurong to go into hibernation. Admittedly, he no longer works, but he does not expend any energy to warm up and face the prevailing -60 degrees.

Seven months later, at the end of December, the conditions of sunshine and temperature should have caused the machine to wake up automatically. But since, radio silence, the sleep continues. Difficult to know more: the Chinese authorities do not communicate but the continuation of the mission seems compromised.

Despite this, it remains a resounding success. Scheduled to operate for 92 days, it lasted more than a year and notably made it possible to find traces of past floods in its landing region in the vast Martian plain of Utopia Planitia.