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China resumes communications with Zhurong Mars rover

Elevation map of Zhurong location
Click for full image.

The new colonial movement: China yesterday announced that it has regained communications with its Zhurong rover, located in the Martian northern lowland plains of Utopia Planitia.

The image to the right, cropped and annotated by me to post here, is a digital terrain map created from two high resolution photos taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The black line shows the route Zhurong has traveled since landing in May.

According to [Chen Baichao, the chief designer of Zhurong], the rover has traveled more than 1,000 meters since it landed on Mars at the southern part of Utopia Planitia in May 2021. After the solar conjunction, it will head south to find mud volcanoes, which scientists are interested in, located about 10 km away.

American scientists had hoped Zhurong would head north to a much larger mud cone that was much closer. Their decision to head south to the smaller cones farther away tells us that they have given themselves a much more challenging mission. It also suggests they decided it will be easier to get Zhurong closer to a smaller cone.

Based on that 10 kilometer distance, it seems the Chinese are aiming for the cones near the bottom of the map. It took Zhurong three months to travel the distance shown. At that pace, to get to those small southern mud cones will likely take, at a minimum, about fifteen months. Though the ground is quite flat, the rover will either have to negotiate one small rise of about 15 feet, or detour to the east somewhat to find a less steep route.

It is also possible that they will instead head to the mud cone south of the large impact crater. It is also a small cone, is much nearer, and will not require them to get past that rise.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • Mark

    Bob – the term at the beginning of this post “The new colonial movement” goes back to 2005 and is not very descriptive of the current reality of Space Activities. Perhaps the term could be retired at the end of 2021. I do know that BtB is your blog, so your rules; I really just wrote this to clarify my own thoughts regarding the current state of mankind’s adventure in Space.

    Here are some alternatives to consider for 2022 and the rest of the decade:

    China – “the Belt & Road for the Solar System”

    For Russia – “the Over-centralized RosCosmos”

    ESA countries (except Italy) – “the euro no-moon-shot space program”

    The U.S. may need to be in three different categories:
    one for commercial space, one for NASA Science missions, and the last for Artemis Moon Program focused missions.

    U.S. (1) – “the Commercial Space Revolution” (Can be applied to SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, ULA, FireFly, Sierra Space, etc.)

    U.S. (2) – “the Planets & Universe in Science’s Mirror” (Perseverance, James Webb, Lucy Probe, etc.)

    U.S. (3) – For the U.S. and the other 11 countries in the Artemis Accords
    – “the Artemis Alliance Federation”

    India – we have to wait for their upcoming decision to join or not to join the Artemis Accords

    I think that covers all the nations with significant activities in Space.

  • Mark: I do not agree. My reference to my 2005 essay is to note that I predicted the arrival of many nations competing to colonize space decades ago, and that prediction is now playing out exactly as I said. The details (such as the Artemis Accords) are not important. What matters is that numerous nations want their slice of the space pie, and are jumping in aggressively to get it.

    Your list above simply lists those various efforts. My column from 2005, as well as my term, “The New Colonial Movement,” sums them up.

  • Mark

    “Writing history is a perpetual exercise in judgment.” — Cushing Strout.

    I understand your perspective. As I mentioned above, I really just wrote this to clarify my own thoughts regarding the current state of mankind’s adventure in Space.

  • Mark: Sure. Always makes senses to clarify one’s thoughts.

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