Dust Storm Sends China’s Mars Rover Into Safe Mode

The Zhurong rover in Utopia Planitia, Mars.

China’s Zhurong rover is at present in protected mode because it waits out a Martian mud storm, based on Chinese language state-run mediaand it could stay in protected mode till the tip of 2022.

Zhurong landed on Mars a 12 months in the past this month; since then, the rover has recorded video and audio from a sweeping lava plain known as Utopia Planitia, over 1,000 miles from NASA’s Perseverance rover.

Zhurong’s preliminary mission was simply 90 days, however since then the rover has continued to review the Martian floor and ambiance. The rover was additionally pressured right into a protected mode in September 2021, when a photo voltaic conjunction disrupted communications between Earth-based house businesses and all Martian spacecraft. Now, the problem isn’t with the movement of heavenly our bodies however with native excessive climate.

It is lately change into winter in Utopia Planitia, and the circumstances are harsh even with out the mud storm. The China Nationwide Area Administration (CNSA) instructed state-run media Xinhua that daytime temperatures might go under -4 levels Fahrenheit, and nighttime temperatures might be a cog-chilling -148 levels fahrenheit, The company acknowledged that Zhurong will not get up for some time—in all probability December, when the Martian spring returns, based on Xinhua.

Dust covers the InSight lander's solar panels, in a self-portrait.

Utopia Planitia’s plain, like a lot of Mars, is dusty, making spacecraft on its floor vulnerable to the large storms kicked up by Martian winds. Such storms will be lethal to the Martian spacecraft that depend on solar energy; the storms can blot out daylight for months.

A 2018 mud storm led to the tip of NASA’s Alternative rover mission, In January this 12 monthsthe InSight lander was pressured into protected mode by the same storm; although it survived, mud coating the lander’s photo voltaic panels means the spacecraft is working on borrowed time and in all probability will probably be decommissioned by the tip of the 12 months,

Zhurong is anticipated to deal with the continued storm with relative ease, although, and its protected mode is extra a precaution than a determined measure. Within the meantime, CNSA’s Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter will proceed to watch the Martian ambiance for any adjustments—for higher or for worse—within the Crimson Planet’s climate.

Extra: Gigantic Mud Towers on Mars Might Clarify How the Crimson Planet Misplaced its Water

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