Talking to Mars: new antenna design could aid interplanetary communication
New research provides a compact but powerful way for Mars rovers to communicate directly with Earth via an array of smaller antenna elements, bypassing the need for an intermediary.
Our antenna “organs” begin with a specialized geometry that looks like half of the letter “E.” We derived it from the original E-shaped antenna design we’ve already had a lot of success with. This novel “half-E” shape allows the antenna to transmit and receive radio signals which are circularly polarized. Basically that means the polarization of the radio waves can be oriented in a special configuration that helps reduce the effects of atmospheric gases and particles on the waves as they travel. It can also help to make sure a strong signal is maintained even if the rover itself or the antennas are moving.
When enough of these antenna elements – 256 in this case – are combined together just right into what antenna engineers call an array, the whole can transmit and receive much greater power.