NewsMars: Rover Zhurong discovers "mud volcano" - evidence of...

Mars: Rover Zhurong discovers "mud volcano" – evidence of water?

The Chinese Mars rover Zhurong provides data from the red planet. Are the new findings an indication of historical water sources?

Hong Kong – Mars is currently one of the most popular playgrounds for space exploration. Science teams send rovers into space to explore the red planet more closely. The little Mars vehicles keep making new discoveries. During a mission, a NASA machine came across a clue that is said to have solved “one of the greatest riddles” of red planning.

China has also invested a lot of money and sent a landing module with the Zhurong rover to Mars in May 2021. The machine is part of the Mars probe Tianwen-1, which landed on the planet in February. The Chinese space agency CNSA states that the Mars mission has so far been “a complete success” and an “important milestone” in China’s world dream program. Since September there has been radio silence between the ground station and Tianwen-1 for several weeks. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has now published the first information that the Mars probe was able to collect on the red planet. There are also some pictures that could be extremely interesting for space exploration.

Mars: Rover from China delivers images “of great scientific interest”

More than 30 scientists from all over China have examined the information sent by the Mars station, reports the science magazine Nature. Almost 200 gigabytes of data, recorded with eight functional units built into the surface of the rover and orbiter, had to be evaluated. These included photos and recordings of the rover, climate data on temperature, pressure and wind speed as well as information on the chemical composition of rock and soil.

„Tianwen-1“

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A photo published by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) shows wheel marks left by the Mars rover “Zhurong”.

Zhurong enabled the research team to better understand the surface features of Mars. Space exploration is still looking for clues that could prove life on Mars. In order for microorganisms to survive at all, they need H₂O, among other things. The data from the Chinese Mars rover could prove that there may have been water on the red planet in the past. The Mars probe is said to have discovered potential “mud volcanoes” that could indicate historical water sources. This means that the information is “of great scientific interest,” says Bo Wu, planetary scientist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and an analyst of the Zhurong data. A first preprint study should already contain “useful data on the surface structure” of the planet, according to Xiao Long, geologist and astronomer at the University of Wuhan.

The evaluation of the material was a long time coming. All information published so far comes from the period between February and July 2021. The researchers were busy “cleaning up the data”. One had to struggle with faults in the sensors and recording devices. The fact that Tianwen-1 is China’s first space mission to the surface of another planet was also a reason for the long evaluation phase, explains astronomer Lu Pan from the University of Copenhagen: “When you do something for the first time, it’s always a learning process.”

Mars rover Zhurong: how does the mission continue?

The first information is there, but the mission is far from over. Tianwen-1 and his rover Zhurong should continue to explore Mars – possibly for years. At the beginning of this month, the CNSA and the European space agency ESA are testing a new way of transmitting data so that future information can be sent more smoothly. According to Lu Pan, this is a “great step” for international cooperation in space exploration. (aa)

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