NASA's Perseverance rover beamed back striking images of Mars after 2 weeks cut off from Earth




A boulder on Mars.
A boulder on Mars.  
  • 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.

Solar conjunction Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Solar conjunction Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech  

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.

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:

An animation shows the principle of loss a signal during the solar conjunction. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
An animation shows the principle of loss a signal during the solar conjunction. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech  

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.

A picture of a boulder sent back by Perseverence
A picture of a boulder sent back by Perseverence  
A picture taken by Perseverance on October 22, 2021 NASA/JPL-Caltech
A picture taken by Perseverance on October 22, 2021 NASA/JPL-Caltech  

The rover has been on Mars since February. It is exploring the Jezero crater on Mars in the hopes of finding traces of life, Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen previously reported.

Before going offline, the rover gathered two major successes for the mission.

After one failed attempt, a sample of Martian rock was successfully retrieved by the rover.

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.

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