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Wednesday, April 16, 2003

NASA, ESA, Japan Competing for Air Time

NASA 70-meter antenna at Goldstone in California.
NASA 70-meter antenna at Goldstone in California.
Credit: NASA
In February we reported that NASA and the ESA were working hard to upgrade their receiving networks to communicate with the multitude of spacecraft sent to Mars and other locations in the solar system. Now a similar problem has come up. Instead of the Earth being unable to receive the messages, there may be a problem with the spacecraft on Mars being unable to send them.

NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey has some of the most powerful radio equipment ever in orbit of Mars onboard. This gives other spacecraft near it the ability to use the Odyssey as a communications satellite to relay their messages to the Earth. The ESA's Beagle 2 lander will need to use this system to relay what it finds, as will the Mars Exploration Rovers. The Japanese Nozomi probe will also muddle the airwaves.

This conflict of interest could lead to problems with everyone getting their data through. Luckily, it will not completely halt communication to the Earth, but it could lead to a large slowdown in the information that can be gathered from the short, vital period that the landers will function.

(More info: The Daily Telegraph)

- posted by Brian @ 20:36 EST