But it's going to keep exploring the Red Planet for now.

Job Well Done

China’s Mars rover has completed its mission… kind of. 

The Zhurong rover has officially finished its 90-sol mission to explore Utopia Planitia on the martian surface, according to Space.com. However, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) plans to keep the craft working hard at collecting raw data and images of Mars for the time being — with the hopes of exploring a possible ancient ocean floor. 

“Hopefully, by providing these data to our scientists, we can get a deeper understanding of the geology of Mars, and then even see if we can find evidence of the existence of an ancient ocean in Utopia Planitia,” said Liu Jianjun, chief designer of the Tianwen-1 ground application system for the CNSA, to Chinese state media company CCTV.

A Quick Break

Before Zhurong can fully explore the martian surface further, though, it’ll need to take a momentary break from mid-September through October. That’s because Mars will be on the opposite side of the Sun away from Earth during that period.

This event is known as “solar conjunction.” When it happens, particles from the sun can mess up radio relays between the two planets. To play it safe, all the rovers on Mars are going to be entering a momentary “safety” mode where they’ll operate on their own in a limited fashion. That includes NASA’s own Curiosity and Perseverance. 

Hit the Groove

After the solar conjunction, Zhurong is slated to drive a mile away to explore a martian feature known as a “groove.”

There, researchers hope to study the different rock compositions to get a sense of its “geological history,” said Liu. 

It’s no surprise that the CNSA are keen on getting as much as they can out of Zhurong. After all, it is incredibly expensive to design, produce, launch, and land these rovers. It’ll be especially worth it though if and when Zhurong discovers more evidence of an ancient ocean on Mars

READ MORE: China’s Mars rover Zhurong completes primary mission, gets life extension [Space.com]

More on Zhurong: Chinese Rover Sends Video, Audio Back From Mars


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