Science News

NASA Plans To Lose Communications With Mars For 14-Days

Sun Blocks Signal

This month, a conjunction with the sun will cause a two-week communications blackout between NASA and their fleet of Mars spacecraft, which includes both rovers as well as satellites.

During this period of spotty communication in which the alignment of the sun, which will be positioned between the Earth and Mars, interferes with radio communications, the agency plans to pause all communications in order to prevent any garbled messages from being misinterpreted and potentially wreaking havoc on their missions. But this doesn’t mean that the fleet of Mars spacecraft will take a break, as they’ll not only continue to work, they’ll even continue to transmit data. Although, some of the data transmitted is not expected to reach Earth during this period. For which reason, the scientific data acquired during conjunction will remain stored aboard the spacecraft and retransmitted later in June.

Both of the agency’s rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, and their three orbiters, Odyssey, MAVEN and Reconnaissance, are all scheduled to “continue making some science observations during the conjunction period,” however, the rovers won’t be driving or moving their arms, according to NASA news release published Wednesday.

Nagin Cox, a systems engineer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who is leading the conjunction planning for the Curiosity rover, was quoted in the agency’s aforementioned news release as having said that the plan is basically to do “what we did for the solar conjunction two years ago, which worked well,” as the agency has already “been through this before.”

Our overall approach is based on what we did for the solar conjunction two years ago, which worked well (…) It is really helpful to have been through this before.

As noted, this particular arrangement of the sun and the planets, which is known as a Mars solar conjunction, occurs roughly every 26 months. During this period of conjunction, the sun disrupts radio communications between the two planets.

This year, the conjunction period will last for roughly two weeks, as it begins on June 7 and ends on June 21.In other NASA coverage here at Immortal News, the agency’s administrator Charles Bolden boldly stated earlier this year that commercial companies are not going to mars “without the support of NASA and” the government. The agency also indicated back in May that with sufficient funding and technological advances in space travel, the first humans could reach the Red Planet’s tiny moon of Phobos by the year 2033 and the Martian surface come 2039.

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