Hear that? That’s the sound of silence from NASA’s Curiosity rover -- and possibly the sound of separation anxiety at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as the intrepid Martian robot takes nearly a month-long break from exploring the Red Planet.
Mars has entered a phase known as "solar conjunction," which is when the sun lines up between Earth and the Red Planet, blocking communications with the rover. To avoid any mishaps, the Mars Science Laboratory mission is letting the rover operate solo until about May 1 -- giving it about three and a half weeks of vacation time.
But this will be a working vacation, mission project manager Richard Cook said in a recent interview. Curiosity will work off a detailed to-do list sent up by the engineers. (So much for sneaking off to Endeavour Crater to hang with Opportunity.)
"We’re sending one long set of instructions to tell it what to do every day for the 24 days or 25 days it’s in conjunction," Cook said. "We just won’t interact with it every day."