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NASA interrupts communications with Mars as the Sun crosses the red planet • The Register


Martian spacecraft will benefit from a temporary break from their normal work schedules when NASA suspends sending mission control commands during Mars’ next solar conjunction.

Every two years, Mars and Earth find themselves on opposite sides of the Sun, completely invisible to each other as a glowing star spewing out plumes of hot, ionized gas is in the way. There’s no point in trying to coordinate complex science operations during this stage, so NASA isn’t going to be uploading new commands to its many Mars rovers, landers, or orbiters around October 2-16.

For example, Perseverance, Curiosity, and InSight vehicles will not send any raw images from their cameras to Earth during communications downtime. The Ingenuity drone will stop flying and rest on the ground 575 feet (175 meters) from its Perseverance handler, although it will still send weekly status reports to the trundlebot which can be relayed back to Earth later.

“Although our missions to Mars are not as active in the coming weeks, they will still inform us of their state of health,” he added. noted Roy Gladden, head of the Mars Relay Network at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory this week. “Each mission was given homework to do until they heard from us again. “

Curiosity and perseverance have been charged with keeping up with weather conditions on Mars. Their sensors must register the signs of so-called “dust demons” – vast vortices of Martian regolith blown up by the winds of the planet.

Perseverance will also listen to phenomena with its microphones. The three orbiters – Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and MAVEN – will transmit less data to Earth and continue to monitor the surface of the Red Planet from a distance where possible.

Although the work may seem a little quieter to engineers and scientists at NASA, they will not be able to sit and relax for long. As soon as Earth has a better line of sight to Mars as the conjunction passes, they will be bombarded with all the data stored by the spacecraft and transmitted to the Deep Space Network – a network of radio antennas on land. managed by NASA. Jet propulsion laboratory.

Staff will need to spend a week downloading and going through the entire information flow before they can restart normal spacecraft operations. Any data corrupted during conjunction will also need to be sent back to Earth. ®

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