European probe and Chinese Mars rover will talk to each other

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The European Space Probe Mars Express will perform five communication tests with the Chinese Zhurong Mars Rover next month, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday.

The Chinese Mars rover, which landed on the red planet in May, has to transmit large amounts of information to Earth. However, it is not possible to send this information directly from Mars to Earth. The trolley must first contact a space probe, which serves as a kind of intermediate station.

According to ESA, Zhurong cannot actually receive communication from the Mars Express space probe due to incompatibility with the radio. That means the rover can’t hear the signal sent through the space probe.

To overcome this problem, ESA intends to try a new method next month. During five tests, Zhurong himself will blindly send a signal into space. The Mars Express would still have to pick up this signal and then decipher whether it is scientific information.

Such a system has been tested on Earth before, but not yet in space. If the tests work, the information is sent to ESA’s control centre in Germany. The space agency then wants to pass the data on to Chinese scientists.

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