Skip to main content

China’s Mars rover appears to have stopped roving

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.

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.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity, a source said last month that it seemed that “most likely the sandstorms have seriously weakened Zhurong’s capacity to use its solar panels to generate power.”

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.

On the plus side for China, the country became only the second in history after the U.S. to successfully operate a rover on Mars when Zhurong reached the red planet in May 2021. On top of that, the rover successfully completed its targeted three-month mission, which included various scientific explorations.

Now we’re just waiting for an update from the Chinese authorities to find out if Zhurong will ever rove again.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
NASA’s Mars rover uses its self-driving smarts to navigate toughest route
A composite image showing Perseverance’s path through a dense section of boulders.

A composite image, annotated at JPL using visualization software, showing Perseverance’s path through a dense section of boulders. The pale blue line indicates the course of the center of the front wheel hubs, while darker blue lines show the paths of the rover’s six wheels. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars rover, Perseverance, has used its self-driving smarts to successfully navigate its most challenging route since arriving on the planet two-and-a-half years ago. Even better, its advanced technology meant it took just a third of the time that it would’ve taken other NASA Mars rovers.

Read more
Perseverance rover’s Mars oxygen machine comes to the end of its mission
Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory lower the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover.

The experiment to make oxygen on Mars has come to an end, with the Perseverance rover's MOXIE instrument completing its mission. MOXIE, or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, is a small box tucked inside the rover that takes in carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere and converts it into oxygen. After 16 successful runs, the experiment has now been concluded.

Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory lower the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Read more
NASA’s Perseverance rover shows off its latest Mars find
mars 2020 perseverance rover

NASA’s Perseverance rover is continuing to explore Mars’ Jezero Crater in its search for evidence of ancient microbial life on the distant planet.

The vehicle -- NASA’s most technologically advanced rover to date -- arrived on the red planet in February 2021 in a breathtaking landing captured by high-definition cameras.

Read more