India's low-cost Mars Orbiter Mission, also called Mangalyaan, will snap all communications with scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and enter the
phase for a fortnight from June 8. "Such a long communication break will happen for the first time. But all simulation tests have been done and we are confident of handling the situation," Isro chairperson Dr Kiran Kumar told HT.
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Why is this happening?Mangalyaan's blackout will occur because the earth, the sun and Mars will align themselves in one line from June 8 to June 22 this year. This alignment is called "Mars solar conjunction". It blocks out all communications with spacecraft circling the Red Planet, including our own MOM.
Is this a regular occurrence?
Yes, this conjunction occurs approximately once in 26 months. The last one happened in April 2013.
Are all Mars solar conjunctions similar?
No, they are not. They depend on two factors:
1. How close does Mars gets 'directly behind the sun'
2. How active the sun is at the given point of time. Sun's activity, in terms of sunspots and solar flares, changes on a 22-year cycle.
Why can't signals be sent or received?
The sun disrupts radio transmissions between the two planets during the alignment. Thus, Isro has ceased transmission starting June 8 for a fortnight to avoid erroneous data from reaching the Mangalyaan orbiter. A signal sent during the blackout phase may be received by MOM as a garbled command and could be misinterpreted.What will happen to MOM?
During this period, MOM will go into an "autonomous mode" and will take its own decisions. There will be no transmission of data or signals to or from it.
Which other spacecraft will be affected?
Communication with five Nasa rovers/orbiters - Opportunity, Curiosity, Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Maven spacecraft - will also be affected because of the conjunction. Their monitoring teams will take a vacation during this period.
(With PTI and NASA inputs)