- NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover sent back new pictures after being offline for two weeks.
- The rover was out of touch while Mars the other side of the sun, a period called “solar conjunction.”
- During that time, messages from Earth can be garbled as they pass the sun’s charged particles.
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover sent back its first pictures after spending two weeks out of reach from Earth.
NASA scientists limited their communication with the rover during the “solar conjunction” between September 28 and October 17, when Mars and Earth are opposite sides of the sun.
The rover was parked between a dune and a rocky outcrop, waiting to come back online, according to its Twitter feed. It used the downtime to monitor the weather and see how Martian dust moves in the wind.
-NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) September 28, 2021
During solar conjunction, which happens once every two years, Earth-bound scientists were asked not to try to communicate with the rover, with a strict moratorium on communications between October 2 and 16.
They worried that signals could be garbled as they pass the sun and interact with its charged particles, per NASA.
If data sent by the rover is lost along the way, that’s not such a big deal, according to NASA.
But the risk is that the other way around, commands sent from Earth are jumbled when they arrive on Mars, which could be misunderstood and cause the rover to damage itself, as shown in the clip below from a NASA video:
During the solar conjunction the rover is put on autopilot. Some scientists took the chance to take some vacation, NASA said.
The rover was “back to work” on October 25, according to its Twitter feed. Below are a few pictures sent back since the end of the solar conjunction.
-NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) October 25, 2021
Before going offline, the rover gathered two major successes for the mission.
Images from the rover also revealed that an ancient river was sometimes overcome by flash floods that dragged heavy boulders at speeds as high as 20 mph.