March was an eventful month for NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, which experienced a variety of issues and delays, some due to problems with the rover itself and others due to conditions outside of anyone’s control. Those issues have been resolved, but now starting today a communication moratorium has gone into effect, and Curiosity will be on its own, perhaps taking the most exotic vacation ever, until May 1.
This has been planned for some time now, and is due to planetary alignment called the Mars solar conjunction in which the Sun plants itself between our blue marble and Mars. Said NASA recently about the situation: “The moratorium is a precaution against possible interference by the sun corrupting a command sent to the rover.” The other rover and orbiters will also go without orders for awhile, but not as long.
While this is the perfect opportunity for Curiosity to get some R&R time after traveling across space and successfully completing missions, it seems the rover will still be busy with its tasks, doing science work alone with its onboard equipment until communications resume and orders are given. Commands were sent before the moratorium went into effect.
In case you missed it, the Curiosity rover suffered an issue with one of its on-board computers last month, prompting it to switch to its secondary computer and safe mode. This set off a series of minor issues, including a software error that put it back into safe mode for a bit. A couple software patches were applied, and all is well, but the rover experienced further downtime after being put into safe mode again as a precaution against a solar flare.