Curtailment of communication between 5 Mars Spacecraft of NASA would be seen this month because it would be seen swinging directly behind the Sun from the perspective of the Earth. According to the NASA, owing to this geometry, diminished communications would be seen.
This arrangement of sun between Mars and Earth is termed as Mars Solar conjunction. Its occurrence is seen every twenty six months as these 2 planets are seen travelling in a sun-centered orbits. Radio communications are disrupted between these 2 planets from the sun during this period. For preventing Mars from receiving commands that could be harmful or can be misinterpreted, commands aren’t being sent by operators of rovers and orbiters.
The team that runs the 3 active orbiters and 2 rovers on Mars wouldn’t send commands to the spacecraft from the June 7 to the June 21. During this period, the sun would be at a distance of 2 degrees. Restrictions would be put on commanding such as usage of reduced data rates and communication only during emergencies.
“Our overall approach is based on what we did for the solar conjunction two years ago, which worked well,” said Nagin Cox, a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who is leading conjunction planning for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. “It is really helpful to have been through this before.”
Some science observations would be made in this period by the spacecraft, although any arm movements or driving wouldn’t be done by rovers. Systems engineer at Jet Propulsion Lab of NASA, Nagin Cox stated that the overall approach is similar to the solar conjunction that was done 2 years back.
For MAVEN spacecraft, this would be its first solar conjunction. The team has made thorough preparations. The solar wind that reaches Mars would be constantly monitored and other measurements would be made. They will store the data and it would be transmitted after communications are normal.