NASA's Mars exploration robots, including the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, are in the middle of a two-week hiatus as a natural phenomenon known as a solar conjunction disrupts their normal communication channels. During this event, Earth and Mars find themselves on opposite sides of the sun, making it risky to transmit commands to the robots on the Red Planet due to potential interference from the sun.
The solar conjunction, occurring every two Earth years, began on November 11 and will persist until November 25. Although the robots will continue to provide basic health updates during most of this period, they will fall silent for two days when the sun completely obstructs Mars.
This blackout means that Mars exploration will temporarily rely on onboard instruments, as communication with Earth may lead to unintended consequences. NASA's precautionary measure aims to ensure the robots' safety and prevent any issues arising from miscommunications.
While the robots take a communication pause, the Martian landscape continues to be monitored by their instruments, collecting data for ongoing missions. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Ingenuity helicopter, and the Odyssey and MAVEN orbiters will also experience this temporary communication interruption.