AUG 9, 2012 9:03am ET

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NASA’s Mars Data Mission

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Even the 15-minute windows are unreliable with signal strength rising as the orbiter moves overhead and falling as it regains the horizon, says Devereaux. “We get a lot of junky links until the orbiter is straight above, so on the newer Reconnaissance Orbiter we use adaptive data rates where the orbiter monitors the signal strength and can tell the rover to speed up or slow down its transmission.” The aim is to get the absolute most out of 15 minutes, and NASA is starting very slow in order to optimize and capture the most important information cleanly.  

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