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China’s Mars Rover Appears To Bite the Dust Literally, As Dust Disables Solar Panels

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Apparently “made in China” means the same thing on Mars as it does in America. It probably won’t last very long. The Chinese version of the Mars Rover landed on the red planet in 2021 to much chest thumping and fanfare from the CCP. Now less than two years later it appears to have bitten the dust, literally. I hope they got the extended warranty. check this out.

China’s Zhurong rover landed on Mars to great local fanfare in May 2021 before it set about exploring the dusty surface.

But recent images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have shown that Zhurong has not moved for at least the last five months. And China has so far said nothing on the matter.

The orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured images of China’s Zhurong rover on March 11, 2022, once again on September 8, 2022, and most recently on February 7, 2023.

By analyzing the rover’s position in the various images, we can see that Zhurong has not moved since at least September 2022.

How about that? Unlike Joe Bidens botched Chinese spy balloon fiasco, America has successfully been able to watch something that belongs to China. Granted it had to take place on Mars, but a win is a win! The Chinese rover was put into hibernation to survive the Martian winter, but apparently succumbed to dusty solar panels and can’t power back up.

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We do know that the vehicle had been put in a state of hibernation four months earlier so that it could sleep through the harsh winter conditions in Mars’ Utopia Planitia region. After that, it was expected that the rover would continue with its explorations toward the end of 2022, when the improved conditions would have allowed for the efficient powering of the rover’s onboard battery.

But rather than offer an update on the condition of its rover, the Chinese space authorities have thus far failed to provide any meaningful news about Zhurong, and whether it’s expected to start working again.

It’s shocking that the CCP would be closed lipped or downright dishonest in terms of details. Their track record is so good when it comes to transparency and being forthright with details about things such as virology and disease. Or alternatively they could just be going through drawers looking for the receipt from so they can get their money back.

Some have suggested that while the rover’s four solar panels were designed to resist dust, images taken at different dates show that dust has nevertheless been gathering on the panels, hindering the vehicle’s ability to generate power.

Mars is famous for its harsh sandstorms. Indeed, it’s this very same issue that finally prevented power generation on NASA’s InSight lander, forcing that mission to end in December.

I’m sure America will figure out how to rely on solar panels on Earth as well as Mars. At least we were first to get there, and the first to complete a mission. Not sure what good it did us as China continues to fly balloons and eat Joe Bidens lunch, presumably of soft, small bites while we fall behind economically, but we have to take our wins where we can get them!