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Zhurong: China's first robot on Mars probably died peacefully in its sleep

After months of silence, China has admitted that the first robot it sent to the surface of another planet may never wake up from hibernation.

Το τροχοφόρο ρομπότ Zhurong στον Άρη, βαφτισμένο προς τιμήν κινεζικής θεότητας της φωτιάς, τέθηκε σε προγραμματισμένη κατάσταση αναμονής τον Μάιο του , όταν ο ερχομός του αρειανού χειμώνα περιόρισε το φως που δέχονταν οι ηλιακοί συλλέκτες.

Zhurong was supposed to wake up in December, until but he has not given any signs of life. Independent experts estimate that the robot may have run out of power due to dust build-up in the solar panels, as has happened in several previous missions to Mars.

Μόλις πέρυσι, η ανακοίνωσε ότι το στατικό ρομπότ InSight, ο πρώτος σεισμογράφος στον Άρη, υπέκυψε σε μεγάλη αμμοθύελλα για τον ίδιο λόγο.

Still, Zhang Rongqiao, an architect of China's Mars exploration program, said he was optimistic that Zhurong might wake up.

Zhurong is barely discernible as a blue dot in images from NASA's MRO satellite (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona)

"We didn't have any φή με το ρομπότ από τότε που τέθηκε σε νάρκη» δήλωσε στην κινεζική όπως αναμεταδίδει το Reuters. «Το παρακολοθούμε κάθε μέρα και πιστεύουμε ότι δεν έχει ξυπνήσει επειδή το ηλιακό φως δεν έχει φτάσει στο ελάχιστο επίπεδο που απαιτείται για παραγωγή ενέργειας».

Indeed, images from a camera operating on NASA's Mars-orbiting MRO satellite show that the robot has been stationary since at least September.

Zhurong, weighing 240 kg, is equipped with a ground-penetrating radar that searched for ice in the subsurface, a camera for topographic measurements and four more scientific instruments.

Since its landing in May 2021, the robot managed to travel a distance of two kilometers and, among other things, discovered evidence of sweeping floods in the distant past, before Mars transformed into the frozen desert we see today.

Mars is currently being explored by two more NASA robots, Curiosity which continues to operate for more than a decade and the newer Perseverance which arrived on Mars about two years ago.

Unlike the Zhurong, the two American robots do not run on solar energy but on plutonium thermoelectric generators that provide an uninterrupted power supply.


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