Propagation on Mars

So we’re sending some people to Mars, who will surely die there. While I’m not really convinced that this endeavor will ever take place, it made me wonder:

  • How will radio radio signals propagate on Mars? Are there layers in the ionosphere (if there is such a thing there) which will allow signals to travel beyond line of sight?
  • If ham radio operators go, we need a new prefix. Anything in mind?
  • Do we need a ‘Mars band plan’?
  • Should we install repeaters on Deimos and Phobos?
  • Anything else important we should think of in advance?


Please let me know what your thoughts are, and if you’re planning to apply for the trip – I’m always willing to arrange a sked.

7 comments on “Propagation on Mars

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  1. This is a really interesting question. As the atmosphere on Mars high up (50 miles or so) is actually quite similar to Earth, I imagine it has some sort of an ionosphere. However, it won’t allow for the longer distance communication that we can get on Earth, as the atmosphere gets thin quite quickly. Spacecraft can orbit Mars without any atmosphere for some time at very low altitudes, around 200km is actually quite common, whereas on Earth that would re-enter in about 2 days. Ground wave propagation should be somewhat better on Mars, due to the thinner atmosphere. I might have to come up with enough information to do a blog post of my own on this topic… Thanks for the thought!

  2. Good point! Who said that EME does not state for an Earth-Mars-Earth?
    I would just add another question: should we use amateur radiowaves to measure an accurate distance from Earth to Mars to make sure it is not falling down?

  3. Perhaps “M” would be an appropriate prefix.
    I know “M” is currently assigned to GB, but the British Empire is so over.

    IF M is reassigned to the planet Mars we will also have to rename the ITU to the INTERPLANETARY Telecommunications Union ; ) .

    Repeaters on Phobos and Deimos? YES!! Imagine all the fun in propagation and foot-print forecasting when a repeater is constantly moving (Imagine Radio Mobile v1x10 to the fourth power)

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