NASA can’t talk to its Mars robots for two weeks because the sun is in the way

The space agency is waiting out a phenomenon known as a solar conjunction, in which Earth and Mars are on opposite sides of the sun.


NASA’s Mars exploration robots will be on their own for the next two weeks while the space agency waits out a natural phenomenon that will prevent normal communications. Mars and Earth have reached positions in their orbits that put them on opposite sides of the sun, in an alignment known as solar conjunction. During this time, NASA says it’s risky to try and send commands to its instruments on Mars because interference from the sun could have a detrimental effect.

To prevent any issues, NASA is taking a planned break from giving orders until the planets move into more suitable positions. The pause started on Saturday and will go on until November 25. A Mars solar conjunction occurs every two years, and while the rovers will be able to send basic health updates home throughout most of the period, they’ll go completely silent for the two days when the sun blocks Mars entirely.

That means the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, the Ingenuity helicopter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Odyssey and MAVEN orbiters will be left to their own devices for a little while. Their onboard instruments will continue to gather data for their respective missions, but won’t send this information back to Earth until the blackout ends.