Like all relationships, sometimes the two parties have to break from one another if a third party starts getting involved and menacing in their healthy communication with each other – in this case, it happens to be the Sun.
Every two years, Nasa cuts off transmission with their Mars fleet of robots for two weeks when Earth and Mars end up on opposite sides of the Sun, with the great ball of fire blocking their signals, according to Nasa.
This year, the loss of communication falls between 11 November and 25 November, after which Nasa and the robots will be reunited with one another until the Sun interjects in their communication again in a few years.
The robots include the “Perseverance and Curiosity rovers,” the “Ingenuity Mars Helicopter,” and a series of orbiters called the “Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter,” the “Odyssey” and the “MAVEN.”
We'll stand down from commanding our Mars missions for the next few weeks while Earth and the Red Planet are on opposite sides of the Sun. The robotic explorers will stay busy though, collecting weather data, listening for marsquakes, and more: https://t.co/d8OrX4JD4W pic.twitter.com/NH01Rd5GUe
— NASA Mars (@NASAMars) September 28, 2021
The cut-off is called the “Mars solar conjunction”; the exploring mission is paused due to the hot, ionised gas that is expelled from the Sun, which could cause corrupt radio signals between Nasa and its Mars robots.
While the signals sent back to Nasa would be fine to receive, as missing data corrupted by the Sun could always be retrieved after Earth and Mars align again, it is too risky for the robots, who could receive broken-up instructions that could be dangerous to the mission.
However, while the signals are down, the robots are not let off the hook that easily.
Before the sun blocks the signal, Nasa sends a to-do list to their robots, who are instructed to monitor changes in surface conditions, weather and radiation while they are parked, the space programme said.
Nasa said they are able to receive health check updates from their fleet of robots, but there will be two whole days of silence once Mars is fully behind the disk of the Sun.
While the communication hiatus is taking place, the Jep Propulsion Laboratory said they usually catch up on other tasks pending on their own to-do lists or take a well-deserved break.