India’s maiden Mars orbiter mission (MOM), Mangalyaan, will go on autonomous mode commencing today. No data will be sent, either, from the orbiter. This is a result of Mars, the Sun and Earth aligning in one line, an incidence known as the ‘Mars Solar Conjunction’. An incidence that occurs once about every 26 months, it will black out all communications between all Mars orbiters and our planet, including the Mangalyaan, for about fifteen days. The blackout is happening because of the Sun interfering with radio signals between the orbiter and Earth. In this phase, any communication may be disrupted and the data interpreted from them may not be correct. As a result, no communication will be made until Mars reappears from the conjunction - on June 22.
Although such a long blackout phase has never been experienced before, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) believes that everything will go according to prior arrangements made. Dr. Kiran Kumar, Chairman of ISRO, told Hindustan Times that “all simulation tests have been done and we are confident of handling the situation”. Entering Mars orbit on September 24, 2014, the Mangalyaan has since been relaying data and images for study. ISRO has maintained that the shuttle is in a good state, and all of its five payloads are functioning well. No major hiccups are anticipated.
Along with Mangalyaan, five of NASA’s orbiters - MRO, MAVEN, Opportunity, Curiosity and Mars Odyssey - will also face a similar blackout. While this has never been faced before, it will be an intriguing test of technology for India’s debut Mars mission. Once Mangalyaan reappears from the conjunction, ISRO will analyse how long it can continue to orbit Mars. Until now, a number of photos of the Mars surface shot by the Orbiter has been revealed by ISRO’s social media accounts. Further data received from MOM’s analyses will be presented once conclusive inferences are reached. As of now, until Mangalyaan reconnects with ISRO, it will be a nail-biting wait through an exciting fortnight.
Source: Hindustan Times