Zhurong Mars Rover – Xi’an, We Have a Problem16th Jan 2023
China’s first interplanetary mission seems to be going from bad to worse. Reports are out that one of the two spacecraft launched, the Zhurong Mars Rover, has been lost somewhere on the surface of the Red Planet.
The Rover went into hibernation on 18th May 2022, and was expected to start activities again around December of the same year; yet no signal has come through to Earth confirming this to be the case.
According to an article in the South China Morning Post, the scientists in charge of the mission are now expected to task the Tianwen-1 Orbiter with searching for the missing rover, which may have been damaged by a flurry of sandstorms earlier in the year.
Eyes on the Zhurong Mars Rover
Although it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Chinese thus far, the landing of the Zhurong Mars Rover was still referenced by NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson, as a warning to the US Congress that China remains a serious threat to the human spaceflight leaderboard.
Nelson went on to say that “We better watch out that they don’t get to a place on the Moon under the guise of scientific research”, adding “It is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘keep out, we’re here, this is our territory’”.
In the same interview with POLITICO, Nelson seemed to back up his claims that the US should be fearful of China’s capabilities by referencing the Spratly Islands, where aerial photos show new installations from the Chinese military on what is currently a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea.
These remarks could be seen as good old-fashioned fear mongering from the Americans, or perhaps Nelson and his team have got a point and we should be scrutinising China’s long-term intentions for space exploration.
Or maybe it’s just the cracks showing, as China’s presence on Mars threatens the success of the U.S.’s Artemis mission, which aims to return humans to the surface of the Moon and explore the Red Planet further.
Whichever it is, one thing is for sure: the Americans won’t be very pleased if/when the Zhurong Mars Rover pops up out of hibernation.