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Sun in the Way Will Affect Mars Missions in April
NASA ^ | 3/20/13

Posted on 03/27/2013 11:57:25 AM PDT by LibWhacker

Sun in the Way Will Affect Mars Missions in April

Geometry of Mars Solar Conjunction
This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period
that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly
behind the sun from Earth's perspective. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

March 20, 2013

Mars Missions Status Report

PASADENA, Calif. - The positions of the planets next month will mean diminished communications between Earth and NASA's spacecraft at Mars.

Mars will be passing almost directly behind the sun, from Earth's perspective. The sun can easily disrupt radio transmissions between the two planets during that near-alignment. To prevent an impaired command from reaching an orbiter or rover, mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are preparing to suspend sending any commands to spacecraft at Mars for weeks in April. Transmissions from Mars to Earth will also be reduced.

The travels of Earth and Mars around the sun set up this arrangement, called a Mars solar conjunction, about once every 26 months.

"This is our sixth conjunction for Odyssey," said Chris Potts of JPL, mission manager for NASA's Mars Odyssey, which has been orbiting Mars since 2001. "We have plenty of useful experience dealing with them, though each conjunction is a little different."

The Mars solar conjunctions that occur once about every 26 months are not identical to each other. They can differ in exactly how close to directly behind the sun Mars gets, and they can differ in how active the sun is. The sun's activity, in terms of sunspots and solar flares, varies on a 22-year cycle.

This year, the apparent angle between Mars and the sun (if you could see Mars against the glare of the sun--but don't try, because it's dangerous to the eyes) will slim to 0.4 degree on April 17. The sun is in a more active period of solar flares for its current cycle, compared to the 2011 conjunction, but this cycle has been relatively mild.

"The biggest difference for this 2013 conjunction is having Curiosity on Mars," Potts said. Odyssey and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter relay almost all data coming from Curiosity and the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, as well as conducting the orbiters' own science observations.

Transmissions from Earth to the orbiters will be suspended while Mars and the sun are two degrees or less apart in the sky, from April 9 to 26, with restricted commanding during additional days before and after. Both orbiters will continue science observations on a reduced basis compared to usual operations. Both will receive and record data from the rovers. Odyssey will continue transmissions Earthward throughout April, although engineers anticipate some data dropouts, and the recorded data will be retransmitted later.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will go into a record-only mode on April 4. "For the entire conjunction period, we'll just be storing data on board," said Deputy Mission Manager Reid Thomas of JPL. He anticipates that the orbiter could have about 40 gigabits of data from its own science instruments and about 12 gigabits of data from Curiosity accumulated for sending to Earth around May 1.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is approaching its fifth solar conjunction. Its team will send no commands between April 9 and April 26. The rover will continue science activities using a long-term set of commands to be sent beforehand.

"We are doing extra science planning work this month to develop almost three weeks of activity sequences for Opportunity to execute throughout conjunction," said Opportunity Mission Manager Alfonso Herrera of JPL. The activities during the conjunction period will not include any driving.

Curiosity, the newest asset on Mars, can also continue making science observations from the location where it will spend the conjunction period. Curiosity's controllers plan to suspend commanding from April 4 to May 1.

"We will maintain visibility of rover status two ways," said Torsten Zorn of JPL, conjunction planning leader for the mission's engineering operations team. "First, Curiosity will be sending daily beeps directly to Earth. Our second line of visibility is in the Odyssey relays."

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the projects operating both NASA Mars orbiters and both Mars rovers for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.



TOPICS: Astronomy; Science
KEYWORDS: conjunction; coronalmassejection; earth; mars; solarflares; sun; xplanets

1 posted on 03/27/2013 11:57:25 AM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

The sun always gets blamed by the cable company for bad reception. Maybe we should ban the sun.


2 posted on 03/27/2013 12:04:31 PM PDT by bgill
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To: LibWhacker

Global warming!!!


3 posted on 03/27/2013 12:06:31 PM PDT by ScottinVA (Gun control: Steady firm grip, target within sights, squeeze the trigger slowly...)
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To: LibWhacker
Sun in the Way Will Affect Mars Missions in April

Duh. Go at night.

4 posted on 03/27/2013 12:06:31 PM PDT by DoodleDawg
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To: bgill

Blow it up. Get it outta’ here!


5 posted on 03/27/2013 12:11:13 PM PDT by onedoug
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To: LibWhacker

So, does that mean we’re all gunna die? I need to know whether I should re-up my subscriptions.


6 posted on 03/27/2013 12:12:00 PM PDT by Puppage (You may disagree with what I have to say, but I shall defend to your death my right to say it)
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To: LibWhacker

Don’t we have solar orbiters that can act as relay stations?


7 posted on 03/27/2013 12:12:16 PM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: LibWhacker

Uh, what’s this “Sun” thing you speak of?


8 posted on 03/27/2013 12:14:42 PM PDT by Mich Patriot (PITCH BLACK is the new "transparent")
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To: onedoug

9 posted on 03/27/2013 12:16:21 PM PDT by mikrofon (I'm Opposed to this...)
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To: LibWhacker

That’s awfully silly of NASA. They should just do their communicating at night when the sun’s not out. :=)


10 posted on 03/27/2013 12:19:44 PM PDT by Bob
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To: cripplecreek

Good question! I think we do have some solar orbiters out there. Don’t know if they have to be 100% dedicated to other tasks or even whether they can be used as relays in the first place. Guess NASA doesn’t consider it to be that much of a problem.


11 posted on 03/27/2013 12:44:12 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

No problem. Check out pelosi’s new bill (HR 666). She’s keeping its contents secret until after Omama signs it, but reportedly it provides that the sun has to move out of the way. (The bill will also grant criminal immunity to anyone who aides and abets any illegal immigrant to secure public office, but its hard to imagine why that’s in there).


12 posted on 03/27/2013 12:45:09 PM PDT by faithhopecharity (()
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To: faithhopecharity

Lol


13 posted on 03/27/2013 12:46:46 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

I’m guessing it just not a major issue for the mars missions to idle for a couple of weeks. At least not enough of an issue to mess with relaying through other satellites. It would be different if we had a human crew there.


14 posted on 03/27/2013 12:48:55 PM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: mikrofon

Ah, the old Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. That’ll solve the problem.


15 posted on 03/27/2013 12:53:44 PM PDT by DoodleDawg
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To: KevinDavis; annie laurie; Knitting A Conundrum; Viking2002; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Mmogamer; ...
Go at night! And, don't let the Sun catch you cryin'. Thanks LibWhacker. I'm doubling up on this X-Planets ping by adding APoD members, and g'night all!
 
X-Planets
· join · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post new topic · subscribe ·
Google news searches: exoplanet · exosolar · extrasolar ·

16 posted on 03/27/2013 8:24:19 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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To: cripplecreek
It would be different if we had a human crew there.

I wonder how they are planning on dealing with this when there is a human crew?

17 posted on 03/27/2013 10:29:31 PM PDT by GATOR NAVY
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To: GATOR NAVY

We have satellites orbiting all over the solar system that can be used as relays. We have satellites in a polar orbit around the sun which would be ideal. We also have satellites orbiting mercury and venus.


18 posted on 03/28/2013 3:32:22 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: brytlea; cripplecreek; decimon; bigheadfred; KoRn; Grammy; married21; steelyourfaith; Mmogamer; ...

Extra to APoD members.


19 posted on 04/07/2013 9:06:48 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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To: LibWhacker

This would not have been a problem if the sequester had not gone into effect.


20 posted on 04/07/2013 9:15:59 AM PDT by GreenHornet
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To: LibWhacker

Bush’s fault.


21 posted on 04/07/2013 2:08:03 PM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (I voted Republican, no Conservative was on the ballot.)
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To: LibWhacker

If the rovers can record and send the videos later, then we can find out what happens when they think we can’t see them!!!


22 posted on 04/07/2013 4:52:41 PM PDT by gitmo ( If your theology doesn't become your biography it's useless.)
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