Earth-Sun-Mars alignment forces NASA to stop communication with Curiosity

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NASA announced it will stop sending commands to its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and to the Odyssey and Opportunity rovers. Communications will be resumed starting with the beginning of May. The decision was taken in order to avoid any corruption of data as communications are severely disrupted during the “Mars solar conjunction”.

Radio communication interference is easily explained because the sun’s corona is full of highly charged particles. These in turn cause a high degree of unwanted interference that can’t be compensated by any algorithm. Because of the Earth-Sun-Mars alignment there is little that can be done besides stopping communications.

NASA was prepared for this and its teams sent in advance weeks of scaled-back activities that the rovers can do until next month. Chief Mars scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Rich Zurek explained that the rovers are on their own during April.

 

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