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Looking at some renderings of the CNSA Zhurong rover I noticed some curious (pun intended) details on the wheels:

Zhurong Rover

Zhurong Rover

seen in some clips of this Wall Street Journal video and this BBC video.

I cannot tell if this is visible on the actual rover picture

These markings/cutouts do not appear in pictures of physical mock-ups of the rover:

Zhurong rover

Zhurong Rover

Zhurong Rover

Zhurong Rover

I was thinking it could be some coded Morse code message (like Curiosity), but I could not make sense of the Morse code translations. I discerned the following possibilities (assuming Latin alphabet, might there be a Chinese alphabet equivalent Morse code?):

Edit:

The pictures clearly show just one single pattern, the following are my interpretations of that single pattern (i.e., left to right, right to left, ignore most inner 'dot', etc.)

  • . .- . (EAE)
  • . -. . (ENE)
  • ..-. (L)
  • .-.. (F)
  • . .- (EA)
  • -. . (NE)

Which all seem meaningless to me.

Edit 2.0:

Actual pictures released by CNSA and shown in this Spaceflight Now article and this SciNews YouTube video appear to definitively show that these details are NOT on the rover.

Does anyone know if these details are on the actual rover?

What do these markings mean (if anything)?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is best practice for sourcing/including images (that probably shouldn't to go imgur)? $\endgroup$ May 20, 2021 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps not the way you think, I have not the details about rover's wheels. But I have found a paper, most of Chinese space projects were published on Journal of Deep Space Exploration, a domestic journal. About wheels About transfer ramps About navigation $\endgroup$ May 20, 2021 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ @BrendanLuke15 Based on c2v's comments it sounds like the three current site moderators could use some help in the form of a fourth moderator. Based on your even temperament and the logical and considered way that you approach things I think you would be a great moderator; if you are interested perhaps leave a short answer of the "I might consider it" variety? 2022 Potential Moderator Election: Community Interest Check $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 25 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh that is very flattering but I don't think I am interested in that level of responsibility/commitment at the present time :) $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ @BrendanLuke15 yes I can certainly understand that. It proves my point about "the logical and considered way that you approach things" and by extension that you'd be a great moderator, if not now, then perhaps at some point in the future. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 25 at 23:43

2 Answers 2

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Those details on the wheels of the Chinese rover are for knowing how much, how well and how many times a wheel turned on the soil of Mars.

Had you assumed that those marks:

. .- . (1) . -. . (2) ..-. (3) .-.. (4) . .- (5) -. . (6)

are in fact numbers, you would have concluded that if all those signs are well imprinted in the sand of Mars it means that the rover travels a distance equal to the circumference of a wheel.

Matt Heverly, the lead driver of Curiosity at JPL, while talking about the marks left by the US robot rolling on the ground, said:

"The purpose of the pattern is to create features in the terrain that can be used to visually measure the precise distance between drives" (Source: Rover Leaves Tracks in Morse Code - 08.29.2012)

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Space! Perhaps you are correct, but can you support your answer with a quote or link to a reputable source? Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    May 20, 2021 at 4:29
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this is correct, as each wheel only has the same number multiple times on it. That means its more likely for identifying which wheel left which track on the surface. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    May 20, 2021 at 6:12
  • $\begingroup$ I will edit the question, but the markings I identified are all identical, the different interpretations are just a matter of reading the morse code to try and find a sensible combinations of letters $\endgroup$ May 20, 2021 at 9:32
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It is the number of the wheel in morse code. The front right has ..-. (1) and the front left has .-..(2) multiple times on them.

Probably used to identify which wheel made which track on the surface.

If it was used for measuring distance, you'd need different numbers on the same wheel to indicate its rotation.

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    $\begingroup$ Aren't ..-. and .-.. "F" and "L" in Morse code? Don't all digits 0 through 9 have five dits and dahs? Might this instead be binary for 2 and 4? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 20, 2021 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ The pictures show all wheels having the same pattern $\endgroup$ May 20, 2021 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ @BrendanLuke15 I just noticed that you have already provided correct Morse code examples in your question. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 20, 2021 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ If it was for measuring distance, you'd expect to see different numbers on a wheel. Instead we see one wheel with 1, 1, 1, on it, and another wheel with 2, 2, 2 on it. Thatr's not for measuring distance, that's for identifying the wheel. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    May 22, 2021 at 18:09

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