Chinese Robot Adapts to First Winter on Mars

Reported from Space, Thursday (12/5/2022), Zhurong, part of China’s Tianwen-1 mission, has been operating in the vast basin of Utopia Planitia for 347 Martian days, or sol. Zhurong has traveled 1,921 meters across the planet’s surface, according to a May 6 update posted by the China Lunar Exploration Program.

However, explorers now receive lower amounts of energy from the sun as winter progresses in Mars’ northern hemisphere.

To compensate, the engineering team Zhurong has adjusted the sun wing angle for maximum sun exposure and reduced the spacecraft’s working hours to control its energy use.

Zhurong has an automatic sleep mode that will activate if the energy level drops below a set point. This triggers hibernation until environmental conditions improve. Zhurong’s coldest period is expected to occur in July.

For now, the explorer’s work continues. New images from Zhurong’s navigation and terrain camera reveal rocks disturbed by the meteor impact.

Meanwhile, in orbit, the Tianwen 1 spacecraft carrying Zhurong on a seven-month journey from Earth to Mars continue his work from above.

The work included capturing stunning images of the Red Planet. The orbiter’s mid-resolution camera captured Valles Marineris on April 1, while the high-resolution camera captured Triolet Crater on April 17.

Tianwen 1 initially acted primarily as a relay satellite for Zhurong’s roving operations, but has since focused on its own science goals.

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