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

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 a.m. ET: 12,745,734 — Total deaths: 565,782 — Total recoveries — 7,023,260Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 a.m. ET: 3,248,220 — Total deaths: 134,815 — Total recoveries: 995,576 — Total tested: 39,553,395Map.
  3. Politics: Trump wears face mask in public for first time.
  4. Public health: Trump's coronavirus testing czar says lockdowns in hotspots "should be on the table" — We're losing the war on the coronavirus.
  5. Education: Betsy DeVos says schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds.
14 mins ago - Health

Betsy DeVos: Schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told "Fox News Sunday" that public schools that don't reopen in the fall should not get federal funds, and that the money should be redirected to families who can use it to find another option for their children.

Why it matters: The Trump administration is engaged in a full-court press to reopen schools this fall, despite warnings from some public health officials that the coronavirus outbreak is out of control in many states and that it will be difficult for many schools to reopen safely.

33 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus testing czar: Lockdowns in hotspots "should be on the table"

The Trump administration's coronavirus testing coordinator Adm. Brett Giroir said on ABC's "This Week" that "everything" — including the "stringent lockdowns" that many governors implemented in March and April — should be "on the table" in states where new infections are skyrocketing.

Why it matters: President Trump said in June that the U.S. "won't be closing down the country again" — a view shared by many Republicans who believe that the economic damage caused by stay-at-home orders was too great to justify a second round of lockdowns.