back to article NASA halts Mars comms for two weeks as Sun gets in way of Red Planet

Martian spacecraft will get a temporary break from their normal work schedules when NASA pauses sending any commands from mission control during the upcoming Mars solar conjunction. Every two years, Mars and Earth find themselves on opposite sides of the Sun, completely invisible to each other because a glowing star spewing …

  1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Some folk you can help, whilst other seem to prefer to remain in the Dark Ages

    That was an entertaining read, Katyanna, with a block on Martian communications mirrored elsewhere too, although in one certain case it may be attributable to the most basic of messaging boards which automatically mindlessly rejects any additional enlightening and directing formatting/rich hypertextualisation rather than relying on any human intervention/interaction with information which might be subject to vetting/peer moderation.

    I refer to the following communication to a team which was rejected by a National Defense Magazine and has one thinking .... Oops, the machine appears to not like all of that .... [Sorry, an error has occurred on the page you are trying to access.] ..... and post to to provide Vital Missing Intelligence and Generally Available Information for Presentation.

    Forwarded Mail ...... and something which should really be widely shared from this magazine, for National Defense.

    amanfromMars 1 Tue 28 Sep 12:03 [2109281203] …… saying a lot more on

    What’s not to like and love if one knows what needs to be done

    With further specific regard to the Dark Mattering discussed in Tiered IntelAIgent Strata for Total Information Awareness Fanatics, the embarrassment of riches available for mining and advanced processing for future AWEsome capabilities and abilities is not without its inherent difficulties whenever it is realised everything one may want can be provided and made readily available.

    Something which the US military [in the public sector] and/or Amazon Web Services [in the private sector], which one is best assuming are not wondering and pondering alone in their thinking about such as be novel fields of endeavour, clearly bravely admits to ……

    Shayn Hawthorne, space technology lead at Amazon Web Services, said there are many applications for artificial intelligence and machine learning in space that have yet to be conceived.

    “We all know we want to do AI/ML on orbit,” he said. “We know that we want to connect to everything, but we’re not sure of all of the different missions that we want to use it for yet.”

    Engineers are not limited by technology but rather by concepts of operations, he said. …. Algorithmic Warfare: AI Key to Unlocking New Space Applications

    Whatever to do next for the best of all can even tend to be problematical should one have any doubts or regrets about the supply of greater facility to A.N.Others.

    ‘Tis the Field of Angelic Play with Daemons then.

    Many could learn a great deal more than they ever imagined possible just by simply following The Register example of the genre.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Some folk you can help, whilst other seem to prefer to remain in the Dark Ages

      Can we have an icon of a jaw hitting the floor please?

    2. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: Some folk you can help, whilst other seem to prefer to remain in the Dark Ages

      Can someone reboot amanfromMars 1 please?

      He's gone all wiggy again.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comms relays?

    Presumably, at some point (i.e. if there is a permanent/semi-permanent human presence on Mars) we will need communication relays to avoid this?

    I guess they could go at the Lagrange 4+5 (trojan) points of either Mars orbit or Earth orbit. Or both?

    I wonder if anyone is planning this yet?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Comms relays?

      Can't they just use WhatsApp?

      1. I am David Jones Silver badge

        Re: Comms relays?

        Pigeons can fly *around* objects. Are they not an option?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Comms relays?

          No, not for bidirectional communication. Mars has no native homing pigeons.

          I suppose Unidirectional UDP over Avian Carrier from Mars to Earth would work, though...

          1. Youngone Silver badge

            Re: Comms relays?

            Mars has no native homing pigeons.

            Are we sure about that? I thought that was one of the things we were trying to find out.

    2. Julz

      Re: Comms relays?

      Or a sun centric orbit not on the plain of the ecliptic.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Comms relays?

        I think that is really hard to do. Getting into solar (rather than earth) orbit takes a lot of energy even with the fact that we are already moving at 100,000 km/h in the right direction. If you want to go at that speed but "up" compared to our orbit that would take a huge amount of energy. Alternatively you might be able to do a "gravity sling" around Jupiter or Saturn - I think one of the pioneer or voyager probes managed a bit of a lift above the solar system plane this way. Whether you could really get a complete "vertical" that way, I do not know ....

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: Comms relays?

          Voyager 1 took in Titan and then headed up, up and away. And Voyager 2 has been heading down, beneath the ecliptic since it's Neptune flyby.

        2. Julz

          Re: Comms relays?

          Hum, I think that as soon as you get your satellite/comms relay going faster that about 11Kmsec-1 you no longer are in earth orbit but in some orbit around our sun (as long as you stay below about 615Kmsec-1). Lots of craft have done this. Kinda a prerequisite to visit places other than earth (moon excepted). As for getting a bit of delta V to go into an orbit not on the ecliptic, as as been pointed out, a funky planetary fly by can achieve this. Not too hard but maybe not required yet.

    3. Annihilator

      Re: Comms relays?

      If there's a permanent presence, I'm sure they'd be self-sufficient enough that a 2-week comms gap wouldn't be an issued - it's not like real-time conversational comms will ever be possible at any time of the orbit sync anyway.

      Suspect a relay would eventually be built, but I doubt it's high on anyone's agenda.

    4. WonkoTheSane

      Re: Comms relays?

      Looks like Elon has already picked out his supervillain volcano lair on Mars.

      He just liked this tweet of Olympus Mons.

      1. Kinetic

        Re: Comms relays?

        Makes a lot of sense now, if you are shopping for the ultimate Bond super-villian burnt-out volcano lair.....go for the biggest in the solar system!

        Sure there a few extra hurdles to overcome, but imagine the bragging rights!

    5. Totally not a Cylon

      Re: Comms relays?

      I'd enjoy the 2 weeks of no-spam.

      Just imagine 2 whole weeks free of advertising and Party Conference news.....

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Comms relays?

        And 2 weeks when the rovers don't have to wonder whether they should be queueing for petrol.

    6. NoneSuch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Comms relays?

      LaGrange points are still too close to Earth for this to be practical.

      A comm relay station with high polar orbit around the sun is the obvious answer. Works for me in Kerbal Space Program anyway...

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Comms relays?

        LaGrange points are still too close to Earth for this to be practical

        You sure about that? The Greek/Trojan points [L4,L5] in Mars' orbit would probably do nicely.

    7. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Comms relays?

      If done, then probably the Mars Lagrange points as you want the least distance so the relay is not in need of the 34m+ dishes of the DSN to hear the Martian chatter.

      I imagine someone has done a design study for this, at the very least for the receiver and transmitter performance requirements, power, and expected station-keeping fuel, etc, but I suspect it is going to be far down the road before it becomes a real project.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Comms relays?

        Indeed, don't have free access to this but looks like it:

        And some other ideas:

    8. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Comms relays?

      Relays are hard because of the inverse square law. On Earth you need a massive dish to receive the puny signal from your probe. You also need a powerful transmitter so that the puny dish on your probe can pick up the signal. Putting that infrastructure into solar orbit and keeping it powered up for years on end (to amortise the cost) is beyond us at the moment both financially and (I imagine) technically.

      Some really carefully targetted laser beams might be able to do it, but they'd need essentially perfect collimation and pretty mind-blowing steering to match.

  3. I am David Jones Silver badge

    This regolith…

    …is it the broken remains of the stone tablets upon which the sacred Register articles were once chiseled?

  4. Anonymous Coward


    Our Mars presence is no different than remote workers everywhere. We all appreciate some downtime.

  5. Conundrum1885

    Re. Downtime

    Sound of cylinder slowly unscrewing.

    "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” (credit: H. G. Wells)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So two weeks for the locals to make off with the handy nuclear hand warmers, and a nifty toy helicopter

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