December 8, 2023

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Why do robots remain on Mars alone and without communication with humans on Earth?

Why do robots remain on Mars alone and without communication with humans on Earth?

NASA’s Mars missions will continue to collect data about the Red Planet during solar conjunction. (NASA/JPL-CALTECH)

And suddenly everything Ships, rovers and devices Which is found in Mars stopped communicating with Earth. This silence may seem disturbing, but in reality it is not.

since days, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), or even Chinathey temporarily stopped sending commands to their robots to explore the red planet because It’s called the “solar conjunction of Mars.”

According to experts, it is a period of two weeks Earth and Mars are located on opposite sides of the sunMaking it impossible to send or receive data to and from both planets.

For security reasons only, space agencies around the world Stop sending orders for 15 days While this alignment lasts, which usually happens once every two years.

A diagram of the Sun conjunction between Mars and Earth, with the Sun in the middle

The missions were halted because hot ionized gas emanating from the solar corona could corrupt radio signals sent from Earth “To a NASA spacecraft on Mars, which would cause unexpected behavior,” NASA officials wrote. It should be noted that the corona is the outer atmosphere of the Sun, which is much hotter than the surface of our star.

“What happens is the following, as the planets revolve around the sun, it is clearly a matter of pure geometry, At some point, it will happen that one planet will be placed in front of the Sun and the second planet will be on the other side. In this case, this happens with Earth and Mars, and it happens every two years. He explained that this moment is called conjunction in astronomy information Astronomer diego bago, Specializes in space issues.

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“What is a conjunction? It detects, in the same very small area of ​​the sky, two objects in quotes very close to each other. Why do I say in quotes? Because in reality they are not physically so, but since they are looking at each other, and since they are facing the same The direction we’re looking in, it looks like they’re pretty close in. So if you need to ship from Earth to Mars Signal, it must first pass near or across the sun, “Because the other planet is on the other side,” the expert said.

For two weeks there will be no communications between the two planets

He added: “But This signal is greatly influenced by the solar corona specifically. The same signal, when affected by the solar corona as it continues on its way to Mars, several million kilometers away, can be damaged. The amount of information sent to the robot or probe can arrive distorted or fragmented Unexpected things or events can generate, This is what scientists do not want. For this reason, sending signals is avoided during this period.

In the case of NASA, the space agency emphasized that although signals cannot be transmitted, ships and robots such as… curiousity also perseverance They will not stop their work during the current solar conjunction, an event that extends for 15 days, from November 10 to 25.

For example, “Perseverance and Curiosity rovers will monitor changes in surface conditions, climate, and radiation while stationary,” agency officials wrote in the explanation.

The position of the planets in the solar system generates different astrological conjunctions

“Although he was on the ground for a moment, Ingenuity Mars helicopter “It will use its color camera to study the movement of sand, which always poses a challenge for missions to Mars,” they added.

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NASA’s three active Mars orbiters — Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and MAVEN (short for “Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution”) — will continue to observe the planet from above. Odyssey and MRO will continue taking images, while MAVEN will continue studying how the Martian atmosphere interacts with solar particles, NASA officials said.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used two different cameras to take this selfie in front of Monte Mercu, a 7-meter-high rocky outcrop. (NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS)

Most These bots are experts at overcoming coupling tools. Odyssey arrived at Mars in October 2001, for example, and MRO got there in March 2006. So both rovers have already had several conjunctions.

Curiosity has been exploring Mars’ massive Gale Crater since August 2012, and MAVEN reached Mars orbit in September 2014. The other six-wheeled rover, Perseverance, and the small helicopter Ingenuity brought with it have already made more than 50 short flights on the surface of Mars. Red Planet is the newest in Starfleet. The robotic duo landed inside the 45-kilometre-wide (28-mile) Jezero Crater in February 2021.