Officials are finally ready to talk.

Wake Up

Ever since going into hibernation in May 2022 to wait out a bitterly cold winter, China's Mars rover Zhurong has remained in its deep slumber. That's despite expectations of having it wake up and resume its exploration of the Martian surface in December, leading to questions about whether the mission is now over.

Chinese officials have stayed strikingly quiet since then, refusing to shed light on the situation — until now.

"We have not had any communication from the rover since it entered hibernation," Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China's Mars exploration program, told Reuters. "We are monitoring it every day and believe it has not woken up because the sunlight has not yet reached the minimum level for power generation."

In other words, researchers aren't ready to give up hope, and are still waiting to resume contact with the six-wheeled rover. Whether that's actually likely, though, is anyone's guess.

Dust to Dust

The most likely culprit is a build-up of dust hampering Zhurong's ability to generate solar power, according to Zhang.

Images taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter earlier this year showed that the rover hasn't moved since at least September.

The rover, the first non-US-built one to softly land on Mars, has spent almost an entire Earth year looking for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet, vastly exceeding the three months it was designed for, as Zhang told Reuters.

But whether it will be able to shake off the dust and start charging its batteries to kick back into action remains to be seen. It wouldn't be the first manmade object to succumb to such a fate. NASA's InSight lander similarly struggled to keep the dust off, with scientists declaring the end of the mission in late December as a result.

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