A group of UCLA students has developed an antenna that would allow direct communication between Mars rovers and NASA, ensuring hours of communication instead of the current 15-minute window allowed by existing technology.
A powerful antenna is crucial to NASA's initial and future forays to Mars. It does not only allow the successful streaming of data collected through the captured images and video footage by the Mars rover but it also ensures that the vehicle is effectively controlled and engineered by researchers here on Earth. Once a manned mission is launched, the importance are even more made critical as the astronauts' communication with Earth will guarantee safety and successful information transfer.
The new antenna - in combination with NASA's Jet Propulsion laboratory - is made up of an array of 256 antenna elements that are combined together to produce a "super antenna" according to Extreme Tech. This can allow direct communication across the vast distance between Earth and the Red Planet without having to worry about satellite and planetary alignments.
Watch the earlier concept being presented at the Grad Slam 2015 held last May.
The unprecedented antenna signal strength achieved eliminates the need for multiple orbiting satellites that have to relay data back to Earth. The present Mars rovers send their data to Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter first, which then beams them to Earth at high transmission rates, The Conversation said.
The Mars missions also use the 2001 Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Observer as messengers who pass news back to Earth, according to NASA. The new process, therefore, saves time and allows longer communication periods.
The super antenna also packs more signal power due to a new technology that creates circularly polarized signals that can better penetrate the Martian atmosphere. What is also equally amazing is that the new antenna technology has the same power requirement as an incandescent antenna bulb, according to Extreme Tech.