Solar Conjunction: Mars Missions Take a Load Off National Geographic

Last Friday Mars slipped into place behind the sun directly opposite to Earth observers, and over the next few weeks the red planet will drift through a line of sight very close to our stormy star.
This means that solar noise effectively blocks radio communications with the five craft now orbiting or actively exploring the face of Mars—and that means Mars mission engineers can take a bit of a breather.
Called solar conjunction, the radio blackout between Earth and Mars happens every two years, with the last one cropping up between October 18 and 29, 2006.