Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Hits New Snag

The location of a rock target called "Knorr" is indicated on this self-portrait of the Curiosity rover in the "Yellowknife Bay" area. 

This self-portrait is a mosaic of images taken by Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013). 


A new glitch on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has forced the vehicle to stay in safe mode longer than planned, stalling science operations for another couple of days, scientists said today (March 18).

The Curiosity rover had paused in its scientific investigation of the Red Planet in late February, when corrupted memory files forced engineers to switch the rover's main operations from its "A-side" computer to its "B-side" backup.

Just as the computer switch was sorted out, though, mission managers decided to put the rover back in standby mode on March 5 to protect it from possible radiation that could be released by a major solar flare pointed toward Mars.

Curiosity had come out of safe mode following that scare, but normal science operations had not yet resumed.

Now, a computer file error has forced the rover into safe mode again.

"This is not something which is rare or extraordinary,"Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger said today at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. "It does mean that science has to stand down for a couple more days."

The latest issue has to do with some of the rover's files that were scheduled for deletion. One of those files was connected to a file still in use by the spacecraft, so the deletion process prompted an error that sent the rover into safe mode again, preventing the rover from resuming science as planned.

"If not for the latest safing, we would have been back in action today," Grotzinger said. "The expectation is, it's going to take a couple of sols [Martian days] to resolve this one."

Despite these technical setbacks, though, Curiosity's team of scientists has been forging ahead with analysis of the wealth of data collected by the rover so far. Those measurements allowed the researchers to declare last week the mission had found proof that a spot on ancient Mars would have provided habitable conditions to microbes, had they been present during the planet's past.

No comments:

Post a Comment