Rover team confident Curiosity will bounce back from glitch


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It is nonetheless unclear precisely what’s ailing NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, however mission crew members are optimistic they will get the six-wheeled robotic up and operating once more.

Since final Saturday night time (Sept. 15), Curiosity has had bother beaming dwelling to Earth sure science and engineering information saved in its reminiscence. Curiosity has stood down from all science operations whereas the mission crew investigates the issue.

The problem is expounded to the rover’s inside file system. One thing is stopping the rover from accessing the areas the place the affected information are saved, stated Curiosity deputy challenge supervisor Steve Lee, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. [Photos: Spectacular Mars Vistas by NASA’s Curiosity Rover]

“The crew is methodically narrowing down potential causes however hasn’t but decided if it is hardware- or software-related,” Lee informed through electronic mail. 

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The excellent news is that Curiosity stays in any other case secure, wholesome and responsive. For instance, it is nonetheless sending dwelling real-time engineering information (which may be very useful to the parents making an attempt to diagnose the issue). So this isn’t a time-critical state of affairs, like the pc downside that cropped up about 200 Martian days (or “sols”) after Curiosity’s August 2012 landing on the Pink Planet, Lee stated.

“In the course of the Sol 200 anomaly, the rover was not responding to instructions, nor was it sleeping to recharge its battery,” he stated. 

That earlier downside, he added, was traced to a mix of two points: a partial reminiscence failure in Curiosity’s foremost laptop, often called the A-side, and a software program bug.

The mission crew ended up swapping the rover over to its similar backup (B-side) laptop, which nonetheless runs Curiosity to today. Engineers later fastened the software program bug, and the crew has restricted use of A-side reminiscence to the quantity that is nonetheless out there, Lee stated.

So, whereas the present downside is “fairly technically complicated,” the crew is way from discouraged. Curiosity has recovered from seemingly extra critical setbacks, in spite of everything, and engineers have a number of choices at their disposal to cope with the present one.

“The crew is assured that they will discover a workaround to permit Curiosity to return to regular science operations,” Lee stated.

“If the issue is expounded to reminiscence , it might be potential [to] work round any parts of the reminiscence banks which are not working,” he stated. “If it’s a software program bug, a repair may be devised to improve Curiosity’s onboard flight software program. And, finally, there’s a backup laptop out there, albeit with much less out there reminiscence because of the Sol 200 anomaly.”

Throughout its six-plus years on Mars, Curiosity has discovered numerous proof that the Pink Planet may have supported microbial life within the historic previous. For instance, the rover’s observations have helped scientists decide that Curiosity’s touchdown website, the ground of the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater, hosted a long-lived lake-and-stream system billions of years in the past.

Since September 2014, Curiosity has been exploring the foothills of Mount Sharp, which rises three.four miles (5.5 km) into the sky from Gale’s Middle. The rover is studying the rock layers because it goes, looking for clues about Mars’ long-ago transition from a comparatively heat and moist world to the chilly, dry planet it’s at the moment. 

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