Mars Solar Conjunction

On the surface of Mars are NASA’s Curiosity rover and InSight lander. Above Mars are several orbiters, Antennas on Earth and those on active spacecraft on or around Mars regularly exchange data. This regular exchange of data will pause between August 28 and September 7 because of a phenomenon called Mars solar conjunction.

Why it is caused?

  • During this period, Mars and Earth will be on opposite sides of the Sun. The hot, ionised gas from the corona of the sun extends far into space.
  • During solar conjunction, this ionized gas can interfere with radio signals when engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars, corrupting commands and resulting in unexpected behaviour from those space explorers.
  • Further when Mars disappears far enough behind the Sun’s corona that there is increased risk of radio interference. Hence engineers hold off on sending commands. Solar conjunction occurs every two years. This hold on issuing commands is called command moratorium.

Once conjunction is over, the spacecraft will beam the data they have collected.

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