back to article China's Mars rover hibernates for a scarily long time

China’s Zhurong Mars rover may be struggling to emerge from sleep mode, a feat it was expected to accomplish around December 26th. Zhurong went into hibernation in May 2022, a year after it landed on the red planet. The rover has been waiting for Mars' winter and attendant sandstorms to pass before resuming its exploration of …

  1. UCAP Silver badge

    Mars is not a nice place for solar-powered missions. Apart from the distinct possibility that the solar panels have been covered with too much dust, another possibility is that the intense cold during the Martian winter (temperatures could easily drop to -100C in even lower) has damaged something that the rover needs to help it wake up.

    On the over hand, congratulations to the Chinese for getting a rover on the surface of Mars in one piece; that's a tricky thing to do at the best of times.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I was just gonna say "Space is Hard"

      and of course you said better things

      Is it time yet (in the world) for space tech patents and scientific discoveries to (in general) be made PUBLIC if they are not already?

      Patent licensing of course must still apply, but be made available for legit non-military purposes like Mars rovers.

      Just a thought, world politics and CCP notwithstanding.

  2. Vikingforties

    "Zhurongs don't make a right..."

    Surely a pun worthy of the great Andy Zaltzman?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Zhurongs don't make a right..."

      Nah, the cricket season hasn't started yet.

      :)

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: "Zhurongs don't make a right..."

        /me imagines a meme involving "cricket choir" or "cricket chorus"

  3. Mungo Spanner

    Predictable problems invite solutions

    If dust gets the better of all these rovers, why have none of them tried a mitigation?

    For example the ability to rotate a panel upside down so some of the dust falls off.

    Or if it has a robot arm, add a brush element on the back of it and a pre-defined sequence to brush at least one panel every month, or something.

    Even if success is speculative, there comes a point where trying it is better than a dead rover.

    It's not rocket science :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

      Makes you wonder if there isn't mileage in sending a dusting robot over - they can all chip in together for that one.

      With a nuclear power source, of course, or it won't last long either.

      Roombas in spaaaace?

      :)

    2. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

      This has been considered a few times now.

      The short form is that the added weight, power-use and complexity of a dust-cleaning system doesn't work out as worthwhile compared to the simplest alternative - just starting with more solar panels than you 'need'.

      Since the dust reduces the effectiveness of the panels, adding more means you can get your required power levels for longer. Panels are fairly light, and have very few (or even no) moving parts to jam or fail.

      When so much of the cost is fuel, you want to save every gram of payload for Actual Science, so lighter is better. Simpler things fail less often - you don't want to drop a science experiment to launch/power a windscreenwiper only to have the damn thing jam millions of miles from the nearest mechanic.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

        Indeed, the mission objective was 90 days which it managed with ease. Anything beyond the objectives is a bonus - nice to have but not worth wasting valuable space to achieve.

        The "dust problem" is not a problem, dust has never stopped a mission from completing the mission objectives.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

          That depends on how hard you hit the dust during the lithobraking manoeuvre :-)

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

        I believe my Austin had vacuum powered wipers, probably designed for operation in space.

        Certainly for somewhere that it doesn't rain.

    3. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

      Oddly enough, real bona fide rocket scientists have looked at this.

      As Forbes.com says succinctly:

      Martian dust is extremely small and fine-grained. Atmospheric dust on Mars is approximately three microns in diameter, and adheres via electrostatic forces. You can't just "brush it off" like you would on Earth; much dust would remain.

      There's more at this stackexchange answer: https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/32445/can-the-mars-landers-rovers-solar-panels-be-cleaned

      It's a perennial topic. Its covered quite well in this Space.com article: Can we save Mars robots from death by dust? (I hope Betteridge's law of headlines doesn't apply)

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

      windshield wipers in space!

      flying squeegee helicopters!

      yeah, maybe not...

      compressed air jets may be the best solution. Build up pressure in a tank, then spray the panel every few days. You can pump atmosphere at Mars pressure, and it should not take that long. A small multi-stage compressor should do it. Probably could he made out of light materials, maybe even plastic.

    5. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

      I'm guessing like lunar dust it has an electrostatic charge and may not simply fall off if a panel was upside down, nor be too easily brushed off.

      1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Predictable problems invite solutions

        This leads me to wonder whether coating the panels in a thin conductive film, and earthing (marsing?) this via a probe into the ground, or one of those earthing strips you used to see on the backs of cars in the '90s when gullible people thought static electricity made them car sick, might work.

        I can't imagine a layer a few microns thick would significantly affect the efficiency of the solar cells underneath.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So it's another one ..

    .. that bites the dust?

    I'll have my coat now, thanks. My work is done.

    :)

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Use a promo code and get $50 off along with a FREE Pillow

  6. boris9k3

    Dirt nap

    R.I.P

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Richard Boyce

    New solution

    Any future lander that includes a helicopter might have a solution.

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