Thursday, 4 April 2013

Mars Solar Conjunction: Siesta for Mars Space Probes

Mars missions scaled back in April because of sun

The alignment makes communication from Earth to Mars difficult for much of April.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's the Martian version of spring break: Curiosity and Opportunity, along with their spacecraft friends circling overhead, will take it easy this month because of the sun's interference.

For much of April, the sun blocks the line of sight between Earth and Mars. This celestial alignment — called a Mars solar conjunction — makes it difficult for engineers to send instructions or hear from the flotilla in orbit and on the surface.

Such communication blackouts occur every two years when the red planet disappears behind the sun. No new commands are sent since flares and charged particles spewing from the sun can scramble transmission signals and put spacecraft in danger.

Mission teams prepared by uploading weeks of scaled-back activities beforehand.
"They're on their own," said Rich Zurek, chief Mars scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

More - Link >>> http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/04/04/mars-mission-april/2052199/

Sources: Associated Press, USA Today.

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