Significant information on the complex history of Mars’ surface has been discovered by China’s Zhurong rover. Data from Zhurong’s ground-penetrating radar instrument revealed the presence of buried craters and other sloping features just beneath the surface of Mars. This is according to research published in the journal Geology of the Geological Society of America.
Ground-penetrating radars used in the investigation also indicated that Mars’ underlying structure differs greatly from that of the Moon. The presence of numerous sand dunes on Mars may have contributed to the craters’ rapid burial. This has lessened space weathering and revealed the complete contour of their walls.
As portion of the Tianwen 1 mission, Zhurong was launched in July 2020. Its landing in May 2021 occurred on the expansive plain of Utopia Planitia. The location was supposed to include the shorelines of a potential ancient ocean; therefore, the landing site was selected based on engineering and scientific criteria. The detection of water or ice trapped beneath the surface was one of Zhurong’s ground-penetrating radar’s goals.
Scientists are optimistic that opening this window into Mars’s subsurface will reveal critical information about the planet. This includes its geological history, hints about earlier climate conditions, and perhaps even proof of the existence of water or ice. This is despite the fact that no water was discovered in the most recent study.
The ground-penetrating radar employed by Zhurong has two frequency ranges. The frequency employed for this study is only able to penetrate to a depth of about 15 feet (4.5 m) while still delivering fine detail. A greater understanding of Mars’ subsurface is possible because of the other radar frequency. This radar frequency operates to a depth of about 260 feet (80 meters).
The Zhurong rover’s exact fate is not yet known. As winter on Mars’ northern hemisphere approached in May 2022, the solar-powered rover went into hibernation. The rover was supposed to continue its independent operations in December. However Chinese space authorities have not responded to the appearance of silence from the rover. Recent images of Zhurong taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from orbit reveal that the rover has so far not moved since the start of its hibernation phase. As the temperature and lighting conditions on Utopia Planitia get better, the rover might awaken.
Zhurong’s most recent discovery offers crucial insights into Mars’s subsurface and geological development. The surface of Mars has undergone a complex history. This history can shed light on the planet’s evolution and possibly even hint at the existence of life there. The rover is expected to awaken soon. Researchers believe that it will carry on exploring the Martian surface. This is in an effort to make even more exciting discoveries.