How The Sun Prevents NASA From Communicating With Its Mars Robots – SlashGear

While the sun is between Earth and Mars, signals sent from NASA to the rovers and orbiters could be interrupted or otherwise disturbed, potentially damaging the delicate and expensive equipment. This video from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains how scientists plan for solar conjunction by sending enough instructions in advance to keep the rovers busy during the phenomenon. Any data gathered during the break is stored for transmission once the sun is out of the way. This particular conjunction began on November 11 and will last until November 25. 

Solar conjunction also allows NASA’s busy scientists some much-needed downtime. NASA’s website explains how staff handles the critical period. “Engineers have become skilled at letting spacecraft be on their own. Before solar conjunction, the mission team sends up any necessary commands. Many then consider it an opportune time to take a few well-deserved vacation days.”

The timing of this particular solar conjunction will also allow NASA staffers to spend Thanksgiving at home with their families instead of huddled at computer monitors, poring through data sent from more than 235 million miles away.