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Solar conjunction halts communications between Mars and NASA missions

Solar conjunction halts communications between Mars and NASA missions

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Perseverance rover captured this view of the site where it will park during solar conjunction with Mars.

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Robotic explorers exploring Mars are currently far from space agencies on Earth after colliding with a giant communications barrier.

NASA mission controllers will not send any commands to its fleet of orbiters and rovers, including Perseverance and Curiosity, for the next 10 days. Because of the conjunction of the planet Mars with the sun.

This phenomenon occurs every two years when Mars and Earth are unfavorably positioned on opposite sides of the Sun as they move along their individual orbits.

Over a period of about two weeks, the hot, energizing gas that the Sun is constantly spewing out of the outer atmosphere could interfere with the radio signals that NASA uses to communicate with its robotic explorers on Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Solar conjunction of Mars occurs every two years when the Sun moves between Mars and Earth.

If engineers tried to send commands to any of the Martian spacecraft during this time, the messages could get mixed up — and that gamble isn’t worth the risk of rovers or orbiters receiving corrupted communications that could put them at risk.

The planned communications outage began on Saturday and will last until November 25. Mission controllers expect a complete outage during those days. However, they expect to receive regular health updates from various spacecraft.

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Slowing down is a good break for people who devote their time to working on Mars missions, but that doesn’t mean the work stops completely. The robotic fleet will still operate, albeit without the close supervision it normally receives.

“Our mission teams have spent months preparing mission lists for all of our Mars spacecraft,” Roy Gladden, director of the Mars Relay Network at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “We will still be able to listen to them and check on their health over the next few weeks.”

Mars rovers and orbiters on autopilot

Rover Curiosity, which recently 4000 sols have been identified (about 11 Earth years) On Mars, it found a suitable parking spot inside its exploration site in Gale Crater. About 2,300 miles (3,700 km) away as well He settled in a place in Jezero Crater.

Both rovers received long lists of commands before communications went down that will keep them busy, including tasks such as tracking changes in Martian weather, surface conditions, and radiation.

Perseverance will take the opportunity to scan the surrounding rocks and use its cameras to do so Spot clouds and dust devils. Weaker and smaller than hurricanes on Earth, dust devils are eddies of air that raise and move dust on the Red Planet.

The Ingenuity helicopter, which largely served as aerial reconnaissance for the Perseverance rover, will also be down and not making any flights during this time. Instead, the helicopter will study the movement of sand using its color camera. While it may seem like a simple task, sand could be one of the biggest and most challenging obstacles facing Mars missions.

Meanwhile, from above, the Mars Reconnaissance and Odyssey orbiters will continue to take images of the Red Planet’s surface, while MAVEN (short for Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution) will track interactions between the Sun and Mars’ atmosphere.

Once the conjunction period is over, the robotic fleet will share the collected data, and the Mars missions and their teams will resume their normal rhythm of exploring the Red Planet.