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NASA’s rovers operate alone

NASA’s rovers operate alone

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There are currently no new missions for NASA’s Mars fleet. NASA has no contact with spacecraft. This is due to an astronomical phenomenon.

PASADENA – Every two years, the Sun blocks contact between Earth and Mars for a few days. The Sun then stands exactly between the blue and red planets, a phenomenon called solar conjunction. This is currently the case again. From November 11 to 25, 2023, NASA will not contact its space probes in Mars orbit and its rovers on the surface of the Red Planet for safety reasons.

There’s a reason for that: If commands were sent from Earth to Mars during this time, they could have been altered by the hot, ionized gas the Sun was spewing into space. This, in turn, could prompt NASA’s Mars Fleet to do unexpected things. Of course, the US Space Agency wants to prevent this – after all, probes and spacecraft on Mars cost several billion US dollars. US$2.7 billion was spent on the latest Perseverance rover, which landed on the red planet in February 2021.

NASA’s Mars fleet is awaiting new instructions

This doesn’t mean that the Perseverance, Curiosity, and their partners no longer have anything to do on Mars. The two rovers are supposed to monitor the changes that occur on the planet’s surface in terms of weather and radiation during the broadcast interruption, but they do not move from their place. The Ingenuity mini-helicopter is also not scheduled to take off within the two weeks. Instead, he must use his camera to track the movement of sand from the ground.

Mars mission
The US rover Perseverance (right) next to the Ingenuity mini-helicopter on Mars. © NASA/JPL

But the Mars rovers Maven, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Odyssey cannot stop their movements. It orbits Mars and is not supposed to fall to Earth. Thus, the three orbiters will continue to perform their missions: MRO and “Odyssey” will take images of the Martian surface, while “Maven” will collect data about the interaction between the Sun and the Martian atmosphere.

Solar conjunction: Mars cannot be contacted

“Our mission teams have spent months preparing task lists for our Mars spacecraft.” to explain NASA Administrator Roy Gladden. “We will be able to listen to them and track their health over the next few weeks.” There will be no contact with NASA’s Mars fleet for only two days: after that the Red Planet’s entire position will be determined from an Earthly perspective beyond. Sun – communication is impossible after that.

If NASA can fully restore communication with its space probes and rovers on November 25, the fleet will first transmit the data it has collected back to Earth. Next, new work instructions must be sent to the red planet, which will cause Curiosity and Perseverance to appear again. (unpaid bill)

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