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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

#scienceInAction : The Duration to send 1 command and Get a Response from Mars is 24 hours. Read here to find out Why.

When scientists control Mars rover named Curiosity, the turnaround time from deciding to examine a rock to getting the raw data back from the rover is one (1) day at a minimum. 

When Apollo astronauts on the Moon spoke with Mission Control on Earth, there was a noticeable time gap between a statement from Tranquility Base and its immediate acknowledgement from Houston. The gap lasted almost 3 seconds, or 10 times longer than human reaction times would account for.

What was happening? The answer is simple: space. The Moon orbits far enough from Earth that light (and radio) take 1.3 seconds each way to travel the distance. At exploration targets farther away, the delay increases; for exploring Mars, signals take between 5 and 40 minutes, depending on the varying distance between the two planets.

"During the Apollo missions, the astronauts were making scientific observations and relaying what they saw back to scientists on Earth. Both were collaborating on decisions about observations and which samples to collect and bring back to Earth to yield the most scientific value," says Kip Hodges, Foundation Professor in ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration. 

"This worked reasonably well for lunar explorations, but the time delay is likely to dramatically reduce the quality and scientific value of such collaborations in exploring faraway places like Mars." 

So far, Hodges notes, fieldwork is being done remotely on Mars by scientists on Earth using robotic tools such as the Curiosity rover. But it's slow. "Even though signals commanding observations and measurements take only minutes or tens of minutes to reach Mars, a single research activity on Mars, from command to data return, can take a day or more," he says.

In the June 21 issue of the journal Science Robotics, Hodges and collaborators Dan Lester at Exinetics and Robert Anderson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggested a new approach to scientific exploration that will drastically reduce communication time. He called it telepresence. 

More on Telepresence will be discussed in our future 'Science in Action' series.

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