Thrive II Preview

What’s Mars Solar Conjunction, and Why Does it Matter?

Posted by on August 25, 2019 in Earth & Space, Sci-Tech with 0 Comments

This animation illustrates Mars solar conjunction, a period when Mars is on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth. During this time, the Sun can interrupt radio transmissions to spacecraft on and around the Red Planet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

By Andrew Good | Phys.org

The daily chatter between antennas here on Earth and those on NASA spacecraft at Mars is about to get much quieter for a few weeks.


That's because Mars and Earth will be on opposite sides of the Sun, a period is known as Mars solar conjunction. The Sun expels hot, ionized gas from its corona, which extends far into space. During solar conjunction, this gas can interfere with  when engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars, corrupting commands and resulting in unexpected behavior from our deep space explorers.

To be safe, engineers hold off on sending commands when Mars disappears far enough behind the Sun's corona that there's increased risk of radio interference.

“It's that time again,” said Roy Gladden, manager of the Mars Relay Network at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Our engineers have been preparing our spacecraft for conjunction for months. They'll still be collecting  at Mars, and some will attempt to send that data home. But we won't be commanding the spacecraft out of concern that they could act on a corrupted command.”

When is this taking place?

Solar conjunction occurs every two years. This time, the hold on issuing commands—called a “command moratorium”—will run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7, 2019. Some missions will have stopped commanding their spacecraft earlier in preparation for the moratorium.

What happens to the spacecraft?

Although some instruments aboard spacecraft—especially cameras that generate large amounts of data—will be inactive, all of NASA's Mars spacecraft will continue their science; they'll just have much simpler “to-do” lists than they normally would carry out.

On the surface of Mars, the Curiosity rover will stop driving, while the InSight lander won't move its robotic arm. Above Mars, both the Odyssey orbiter and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will continue collecting data from Curiosity and InSight for return to Earth. However, only Odyssey will attempt to relay that data to Earth before conjunction ends. Meantime, another orbiter, MAVEN, will continue to collect its own scientific data but won't support any relay operations during this time.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE…

Tags: , , , , ,

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on YouTube

New Title

NOTE: Email is optional. Do NOT enter it if you do NOT want it displayed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FAIR USE NOTICE. Many of the articles on this site contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making this material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental issues, human rights, economic and political democracy, and issues of social justice. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law which contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. If you wish to use such copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use'...you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. And, if you are a copyright owner who wishes to have your content removed, let us know via the "Contact Us" link at the top of the site, and we will promptly remove it.

The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Conscious Life News assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms.

Paid advertising on Conscious Life News may not represent the views and opinions of this website and its contributors. No endorsement of products and services advertised is either expressed or implied.
Top
Send this to a friend