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China’s Mars probes suspend explorations due to sun outage

The China National Space Administration released new images on Jun 11, 2021 taken by the country's first Mars rover Zhurong. The photo shows China's national flag unfurled from the glistening landing platform on the red planet. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

BEIJING – China's Mars rover and orbiter have suspended explorations since mid-September, to wait out a period of sun outage, the China National Space Administration said on Tuesday.

A sun outage refers to a phenomenon when Mars and the Earth move to either side of the sun and the three are almost perfectly aligned. During this period, the solar electromagnetic radiation will increase and disrupt the communications between the probes and the Earth.

The sun outage will end in mid-October, and the two probes will resume communications with the Earth and continue scientific explorations on the red planet, said the administration.

China's Tianwen-1 mission, comprised of an orbiter, lander and rover, was launched on Jul 23, 2020. The rover Zhurong drove down from its landing platform to the Martian surface on May 22.

READ MORE: China releases new videos, images from Mars probe Tianwen-1