The Chinese rover Zhurong and its companion in orbit, the Tianwen-1 satellite, will soon enter a brief phase of “hibernation”, a sort of safe mode lasting just over a month, after being active on the surface and in orbit around Mars for 100 days. Meanwhile, before going into standby, the rover has sent an overview of where it is located and where it will remain inactive until the end of October, Utopia Planitia. But why this necessary blackout de Zhurong?
If you think that rovers and satellites literally need to “recharge their batteries” after 100 days of work, you are wrong. The reason both Zhurong and Tianwen-1 will not send signals to Earth between mid-September and late October is the presence of charged particles from the sun, which interfere with the mission’s communication with Earth.
The Tianwen-1 satellite passes over the rover once a day to transmit data to mission control in China, while solar-powered Zhurong has already traveled over 1km since it landed on Mars. Initially, the operating life of the small rover should have been 90 days, but as often happens in these cases, the rover has exceeded expectations and is expected to continue working for a long time after the nap.