At the end of October, it was announced by theESA an attempt to receive data from Zhurong Chinese Rover. It was a test to allow CNSA extension to have another way to communicate with Earth. This is due to the inability to use NASA’s powerful DSN due to thewolf amendment which prohibits the space agency from collaborating with the Chinese.
One of the main difficulties is that the Mars Express Probe (launched in mid-2003) was not intended to communicate with the protocols used by the chinese martian rover. This limited operational possibilities while allowing the communication capabilities of Mars to be extended to Earth. There CNSA extension just announced the test results.
Second what is reportedthe information transmitted by the martian rover to the ESA spacecraft were successfully received and then sent to Earth. As mentioned, it was not at all clear that this operation would succeed, which was only considered later (even if the two agencies already had an agreement in principle before the launch of Zhurong).
The Zhurong rover and the Mars Express probe communicated correctly
The tests were carried out in November (as planned). Investigation Tianwen-1, orbiting the Red Planet, was sending the commands to the Chinese rover just as ESA was sending the receiving indications. At the appointed time on Zhurong Chinese Rover sent the data to the ESA spacecraft. The latter was about 4000 km away with a download time of about 10 minutes.
There Mars Express Probe received the data which was then routed to the Deep Space monitoring and control station of theESA. At this point, the data was sent to the European Space Operations Center which, in turn, forwarded it to the Aerospace Command and Control Center in Beijing. The whole process was successful.
The main problem with this procedure is that the reverse process, i.e. the communication between Mars-Express and the chinese rover It is not possible. It is the demonstration of the will of collaboration between the two agencies and on the technical plan. CNSA’s ability to receive data from Mars is also being expanded.
The second problem is that Mars-Express can only “listen” and blindly collecting data and has never been used in space by this probe. There CNSA extension wrote that “According to the results of data interpretation and analysis, the teams of both sides have confirmed that the interfaces of relay communication equipment on Zhurong and Mars Express match, comply with international standards, and the data content transmitted is complete and correct and the test is successful”.
In the future, there will be more tests with the sending of scientific data this time. This will make it possible not to link the mobile-probe communication only to theTianwen-1 Orbiter which continues its scientific operations. Meanwhile, the Zhurong rover crossed its 196th Martian soil by traveling more than 1297 meters.
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