What’s Mars Solar Conjunction and Why does it Matter for Spacecrafts

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The Mars Solar Conjunction will block the spacecraft from sending the information to the antennas on Earth. It is because Mars and Earth come on the opposite sides of the sun in Mars Solar Conjunction. The antennas cannot drag any information about few weeks in this period.

The sun emits out hot ionised gas from the corona that extends far into space. During this solar conjunction, the gas interferes with radio signals when engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars.

These corrupt commands result in unexpected behaviour that may damage our spacecraft. So, the engineers are holding off the controls when Mars disappears behind the Sun’s corona as there is an increase in the risk of radio interference.

Roy Gladden, manager of Mars Relay network, says that NASA is preparing the spacecraft for conjunction from months. They are collecting science data at Mars, and some will attempt to send data to Earth. They are also taking care of not commanding the spacecraft out of concern that they could act on corrupted command.

When Is Mars Solar Conjunction Taking Place

The Mars Solar Conjunction occurs every two years, and it called the command Moratorium that holds issuing commands. It will run from Aug 28th to Sep 7th, 2019.

NASA Also stated that some missions stop commanding their spacecraft earlier in preparation for this conjunction.

Although some instruments in spacecraft generate a large amount of data which will not work, Mars Spacecraft for few weeks has an only to-do list that they usually do.

Why Does It Matter

Mars and Earth are placed on the opposites sides of sun bonfire in the middle during the Mars Solar Conjunction. So, we cannot see Mars, our Landers, rovers, and orbiters can’t see us.

The sun emits high radiations into space for a considerable distance. When our spacecraft send messages, they will interfere with the charged particles from the sun. It will cause gaps in the data and that not an issue because we can resent it later if something is missing.

Mars Solar Conjunction

The problem arises when we send commands to our Mars spacecraft. The signals emitted by Earth will also interfere with the sun, and the spacecraft receives the partial message. It could confuse the spacecraft and puts them in great danger.

So, some of the basic commands are sent ahead, which includes a simple to-do list and regular health check-up’s. This break in communication may give team members to take up other work or have a holiday.

What Happens to Spacecrafts on Mars

On the surface of Mars, the Curiosity rover will stop driving, and the InSight Lander will not move its arm. Above Mars, the Odyssey orbiter and Mars Reconnaissance continue collecting data from rover and Lander for return to Earth.

Odyssey can only attempt to relay data to Earth before conjunction ends.  The Other orbiter MAVEN collects the own scientific data and does not support any relay operations in Mars Solar Conjunction

The solar conjunction will affect all the Mars orbits of every country. So, we face a temporary pause in streams of images and data from our Mars Missions. It will also cause colossal information transfer after the conjunction ends.

What Happens When Mars Solar Conjunction Ends

When the conjunction completes the spacecraft of NASA will send the data they collected to Deep Space Network. It is a system of massive Earth base radio antennas managed by JPL. Engineers have to spend about a week o download this information before normal spacecraft operations are resumed.

It the team has the data corrupted sent by the missions there is no need to worry. We can usually have that data retransmitted after the moratorium ends on September 7th. We should send commands out of any interest in the spacecraft safety may also cause damage to them.

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