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Mars seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI

The robots responsible for exploring Mars from the surface and orbit are about to go on holiday.

The big picture: Every 2 years, Mars and Earth reach a point in their orbits known as solar conjunction, when the 2 planets are on opposite sides of the Sun, making communications more difficult.

  • Scientists on the ground will stop sending commands to the spacecraft in the vicinity of the red planet from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7, according to NASA.

Details: The Curiosity rover won't drive during the blackout, and the agency's InSight lander will stop moving its robotic arm, NASA said.

  • The Odyssey orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and MAVEN orbiter will all continue circling the planet without new instructions from Earth.
  • Other spacecraft orbiting Mars like the European Space Agency's ExoMars orbiter, will also have some interruptions during the next few weeks.

Yes, but: The rovers and orbiters won't just be resting on their laurels during conjunction.

  • MAVEN will still collect science data, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey will be in touch with the immobile Curiosity and InSight.
  • Odyssey will also attempt to send some data collected from the spacecraft on the planet's surface back to Earth before the end of conjunction.

The bottom line: Those pretty Mars photos we're used to seeing every few days are going to slow down for a while, but come mid-September, we should all expect to get our weekly fix of red planet images again.

Go deeper

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.

The quick FCC fix that would get more students online

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the pandemic forces students out of school, broadband deployment programs aren't going to move fast enough to help families in immediate need of better internet access. But Democrats at the Federal Communications Commission say the incoming Biden administration could put a dent in that digital divide with one fast policy change.

State of play: An existing FCC program known as E-rate provides up to $4 billion for broadband at schools, but Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai has resisted modifying the program during the pandemic to provide help connecting students at home.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

America's hidden depression

Biden introduces his pick for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, on Dec. 1. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Biden faces a fragile recovery that could easily fall apart, as the economy remains in worse shape than most people think.

Why it matters: There is a recovery happening. But it's helping some people immensely and others not at all. And it's that second part that poses a massive risk to the Biden-Harris administration's chance of success.