The European Mars orbiter transmitted data from a Chinese rover from the Red Planet to Earth.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express collected data from China’s Zhurong Mars rover and successfully sent it back to Earth after a series of experimental communications tests. In general, it was developed for communication with the Chinese satellite in orbit Tianwen 1.

The orbiter is now on another mission. Therefore, China and Europe decided to conduct an experiment: send data from Zhurong via Mars Express to Earth. This is not an easy task: the fact is that the communication equipment of the robots does not match. Zhurong can transmit on a frequency that Mars Express can detect, but not vice versa. As a result, the Chinese rover sent data, did not receive a response from the European orbiter.

But on November 20, Mars Express flew 4,000 km over the Zhurong rover in the Utopia Planitia, a circular lowland about 3,300 km in diameter in the eastern northern hemisphere of Mars. He received the data packet, transmitted it to the ground stations of the European Space Operations Center, and then to the Beijing Aerospace Operations Center.

“Mars Express has successfully received the signals sent by the rover, and our colleagues from the Zhurong team have confirmed that all data has arrived to Earth in very good quality,” said Gerhard Billig, systems engineer for the European Space Agency.

Zhurong, China’s first Martian rover, touched down on the Red Planet this May and is exploring the Utopia Plain. Its orbiting satellite, Tianwen 1, transmitted the rover’s scientific data to Earth. But with the start of Tianwen’s own science mission 1 in November, the ability to transmit valuable information to Zhurong has dwindled. Instead, the orbiter is focused on mapping Mars.