Sun. Dec 10th, 2023
    NASA’s Mars Exploration Robots to Operate Autonomously During Solar Conjunction

    NASA’s Mars exploration robots are set to embark on a journey of autonomy for the next two weeks. This is due to a celestial phenomenon called solar conjunction, which occurs when Mars and Earth are positioned on opposite sides of the sun in their orbits. During this time, direct communication between NASA and its instruments on Mars is extremely risky, as interference from the sun can have adverse effects.

    To ensure the safety and reliability of the robots, NASA has decided to temporarily halt the sending of commands until the planets realign in more favorable positions. This planned break began on Saturday and will continue until November 25. Solar conjunction happens every two years, and although basic health updates will still be transmitted to Earth, the robots will remain completely silent for a two-day period when the sun obstructs Mars entirely.

    The Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, the Ingenuity helicopter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Odyssey and MAVEN orbiters will have to rely on their onboard instruments to continue gathering data for their respective missions. However, this valuable information will not be transmitted back to Earth until the blackout period concludes.

    During solar conjunction, the robots will operate autonomously, navigating the Martian terrain, conducting experiments, and capturing images, all without direct human intervention. This period presents a unique opportunity for the robots to demonstrate their capabilities to adapt and function independently.

    Although NASA’s exploration robots may be out of touch temporarily, their autonomous operation showcases their resilience and ability to thrive in challenging environments. As we await the end of this solar obstruction, the robots continue their invaluable work on the mysterious red planet, providing us with insights that expand our understanding of the universe.


    1. What is solar conjunction?

    Solar conjunction refers to the alignment of Mars and Earth on opposite sides of the sun in their respective orbits. This positioning poses a risk to communication between NASA and its Mars exploration robots due to potential interference from the sun.

    2. How long does solar conjunction last?

    Solar conjunction lasts for approximately two weeks. During this period, NASA temporarily suspends direct commands to its instruments on Mars to avoid any detrimental effects caused by solar interference.

    3. What happens to the Mars exploration robots during solar conjunction?

    While the robots continue their operations during solar conjunction, they operate autonomously without direct control from NASA. They gather data and carry out their missions using their onboard instruments, but this information is not transmitted back to Earth until the blackout period ends.