NASA’s all Mars missions will continue gathering data, though scientists will stop sending commands from earth as the Sun blocks radio communication.
NASA will halt sending commands to its Mars missions for next few weeks, though all the missions will continue collecting data of the Red Planet. Every two years, Earth and Mars are on opposite sides of the Sun at a distance of 245 million miles, and this period is known as Mars solar conjunction. NASA has six on going mars missions on the Red Planet at the same time. Yet, having so many technological advancement, these robots are at the mercy of cosmic procedures.
Hot, ionized gases expelled from the Sun’s corona spread far in the space and during the period of solar conjunction this gas can intrude radio signals sent from Earth to communicate with mars rovers. It takes 22 minutes for a radio signal to travel between these two planets, and if this ionized gas emitted from the Sun interferes radio signals sent by scientists, it could corrupt commands and cause unpredictable behavior of mars rovers. Therefore, to be safe engineers at NASA send few simple commands to Mars rover to carry out for a period of few week. This year, NASA missions won’t be commanded during this conjunction period, the communications will be shut down from October 2 to October 16. Even though the engineers won’t be commanding, the rovers will send data and updates back to Earth at a low transmission rate.
The Curiosity and Perseverance will remain stationary and carry out weather, radiation and other sensor measurements. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will sit still, and the InSight lander will continue taking seismic measurements. In the meantime, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN and the Odyssey will collect data and transmit from the surface. When the conjunction period ends, the spacecraft will send remaining data to NASA’s Deep Space Network for a week before starting regular missions.