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Six NASA missions to Mars disconnected for two weeks: how solar conjunction affects communications with Mars

From today until mid-October, the ships, rovers and other artifacts that NASA has on Mars, are cut off from Earth. A period of about two weeks in which the missions have to figure out themselves in the open, waiting to be able to receive orders again and send data back. It is not on a whim, but because there is no way to communicate.


The interruption of communications It will take place completely between October 2 and October 16 of this 2021. These dates will vary slightly depending on each mission on Mars, some of them will be able to communicate with Earth before others.

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The six missions that will pause your communications for two weeks.

NASA currently has operating on Mars a total of six artifacts. Each of them during this period will continue to work independently. They are as follows:

  • Rover Perseverance: It will continue to collect meteorological measurements from Mars and take pictures as it has done so far of the Martian soil, as well as capture sounds. But you are not going to move your mast with the tools you have there. Ingenuity, the accompanying helicopter, will stay about 175 meters from the rover and send its status data on a weekly basis.
  • Rover Curiosity: Like Perseverance, it will take meteorological measurements of Mars. It will also measure the radiation of the planet.
  • Sonda InSight: It will focus on detecting earthquakes on the planet.
  • MAVEN orbiter: It will collect data on its own as before and will try to send data back to Earth from both its own and from the surface missions.
  • Orbitador Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: It will collect data on its own as before and will try to send data back to Earth from both its own and from the surface missions.
  • Orbiter: Odyssey It will collect data on its own as before and will try to send data back to Earth from both its own and from the surface missions.

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The solar conjunction, guilty of everything

Solar conjunction is a phenomenon that occurs every two (terrestrial) years. It is a period that lasts approximately two weeks and in which Mars, the Sun and the Earth are aligned in such a way that the star is between the two planets. This causes interference in the communications that are made, making it practically impossible to receive communication. Not simply by placing an object in the way, but by the iodized gas generated, which can weaken communications.

During this time NASA does not usually send any commands to artifacts on Mars. It is so now and it has been so for decades of exploration on the Red Planet. This is because while some data may arrive, it is impossible to predict what will arrive and what may happen. A damaged shipment can give the rover on duty incorrect orders and cause further damage. However, some ships do send continuous information to Earth, information that sometimes comes complete and sometimes half. However, here on Earth we can process that better.

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