January 17, 2022

Mars Solar Conjunction: What Happens When the Sun Blocks our Signal?

No one attempts to send out new instructions to Mars during solar conjunction. Its impossible to forecast what information may be lost due to interference from charged particles from the Sun, and that lost information could potentially threaten the spacecraft. Instead, prior to solar conjunction, engineers send 2 weeks worth of guidelines and wait.
Before solar conjunction, the mission group sends up any required commands.

Mars solar conjunction. Credit: NASA
Every day for over twenty years, the U.S. has actually had an existence at Mars, utilizing spacecraft to understand this severe world and its potential as a previous or present habitat for life.
Throughout that time, all spacecraft have ended up being virtually incommunicado for about two weeks every 2 years. The factor is solar combination.
Solar combination is the duration when Earth and Mars, in their eternal march around the Sun, are obscured from each other by the fiery orb of the Sun itself. Like dancers on either side of a huge bonfire, the two worlds are momentarily undetectable to each other.

The solar combination moratorium on commanding all Mars spacecraft is between October 2 and October 14, 2021, when Mars is within 2 degrees of the Sun.
Mission controllers at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory respond in a variety of ways. They turn off some instruments. They gather data from others and shop it. In some cases, they continue sending information to Earth, knowing that some data will be lost. Whether they get a break from daily operations depends on what objective theyre supporting.

Nobody tries to send new guidelines to Mars during solar conjunction. Its difficult to forecast what information may be lost due to interference from charged particles from the Sun, which lost details could possibly endanger the spacecraft. Rather, prior to solar conjunction, engineers send two weeks worth of guidelines and wait.
While that might seem risky, automatic pilot has come a long way. Engineers have become experienced at letting spacecraft be on their own. Like moms and dads who raise youngsters to be accountable and let them go on a brief getaway with their buddies, theyve done all they can to ensure the voyagers will be healthy and safe. Before solar conjunction, the objective group sends out up any essential commands. Numerous then consider it a suitable time to take a couple of, well-deserved vacation days.

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