ROANOKE, Va. – Around midnight, Mars will reach a point in its orbit known as “solar conjunction,” where the planet is directly behind the sun relative to Earth. This is something that happens roughly once every two years.
For teams in charge of communicating with the Mars rovers, helicopter and orbiters, it’s time for a much-needed two-week break. Because Mars will be within 2° of the sun, any radio communications cannot make it through.
NASA has two rovers on Mars - Curiosity and Perseverance. Curiosity has been on the Red Planet since 2012, and Perseverance landed just this past February. The Ingenuity helicopter has been performing flights, but Space.com says it’s been grounded as NASA learns how to fly it safely during Mars’ seasonal thinning of its atmosphere.
NASA also has three orbiters which have been through previous conjunctions.
During this communication blackout, NASA scientists have given “homework” to their Martian projects.