Why NASA’s Mars Mission Will Be Silent For Weeks

NASA is stepping back from taking command of its Mars mission for the next few weeks.

While Earth and the Red Planet are on opposite sides of the Sun – in the biennial Mars solar conjunction – the planets are unable to “see” each other.

The Sun emits hot, ionized gas from its corona that diffuses into space and can disrupt radio signals for spacecraft and the orders and communications of engineers.

Most missions will stop sending commands to its Mars spacecraft between Saturday and October 16, NASA said in a release Tuesday.

Some will extend the postponement for a day or two, though that decision is reportedly dependent on the angular distance between Mars and the Sun in Earth’s sky.

Even so, Mars missions will not be completely inactive during this period.

This NASA file obtained on July 25, 2021, composed of a pair of cameras located high on the rover's mast on June 15, 2021, captured by the Mars Perseverance rover using its Left Mastcam-Z camera, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter (R) shows.
This NASA file obtained on July 25, 2021, composed of a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mast on June 15, 2021, captured by the Mars Perseverance rover using its Left Mastcam-Z camera, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter (R) shows.
Caltech/AFP via Getty Images

The Perseverance Mars rover – which landed in February this year – will take weather measurements with its MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) sensor, run its RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars Subsurface Experiment) radar, capture new sounds with its microphone And watch out for the dust devils with your cameras.

The Simplicity Mars helicopter is not scheduled to fly, but will tell “Percy” about its status every week.

The Curiosity Mars rover – which has been on Mars since August 2012 – will also take weather measurements using its REMS (Rover Environmental Monitoring Station) sensor, look for dust devils with its cameras and with its RAD (Radiation Assessment Detector) The radiation will take measurements. DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutron) sensor.

Finally, NASA’s InSight lander will continue to use its seismometers to detect earthquakes and three of NASA’s orbiters will continue to relay some data from all surface missions back to Earth, as well as gather their own science. will do.

“Although our Mars missions won’t be as active in the next few weeks, they will tell us about their health status,” said Roy Gladden, manager of the Mars Relay Network at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Statement. “Each mission has been given some homework to do until they hear from us again.”

NASA noted that perseverance, curiosity and insight will lead to a temporary pause in the available raw images.

In this image released by NASA, the Perseverance Mars rover, using its Watson camera, took this selfie atop a rock nicknamed. "rosette" Where two holes can be seen where the rover used its robotic arm to drill rock core samples on September 10, 2021.
In this image released by NASA, the Perseverance Mars rover, using its Watson camera, took this selfie on a rock called “Rochette,” where two holes can be seen where the rover took samples of the rock core on September 10, 2021. He used his robotic arm to drill.
AFP via Getty Images

After the postponement, the spacecraft will send the remaining data to NASA’s Deep Space Network: an international array of giant radio antennas managed by JPL.

NASA engineers will spend a week downloading the information before they are able to resume standard spacecraft operations.

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