Spaceflight Insider

Curiosity rover functional again after system restart

A self-portrait by NASA's Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). At the time of the picture, a Martian dust storm had reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover's location in Gale Crater. A drill hole can be seen in the rock to the left of the rover at a target site called "Duluth." Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A self-portrait by NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). At the time of the picture, a Martian dust storm had reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater. A drill hole can be seen in the rock to the left of the rover at a target site called “Duluth.” Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover, which is currently climbing Mouth Sharp on the surface of Mars, suffered an anomaly doing a boot-up sequence Feb. 15, 2019, causing it to enter a protective safe mode.

The Curiosity team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which leads the mission, analyzed all the data they had and finally brought the rover out of safe-mode on Feb. 19 and the rover booted up completely. The rover has since booted up successfully more than 30 times without another occurrence of the still-undetermined issue that caused the rover to go into safe mode.

The rover is currently in an area nicknamed Glenn Torridon. It is a region of Mount Sharp with lots of clay minerals. Photo Credit: NASA

The rover is currently in an area nicknamed Glenn Torridon. It is a region of Mount Sharp with lots of clay minerals. Photo Credit: NASA

“We’re still not sure of its exact cause and are gathering the relevant data for analysis,” Steven Lee, Curiosity’s deputy project manager at JPL said in a press release. “The rover experienced a one-time computer reset but has operated normally ever since, which is a good sign. We’re currently working to take a snapshot of its memory to better understand what might have happened.”

Until engineers have a better grasp of what happened to the rover, the team will not conduct any more science operations.

“In the short term, we are limiting commands to the vehicle to minimize changes to its memory,” Lee said. “We don’t want to destroy any evidence of what might have caused the computer reset. As a result, we expect science operations will be suspended for a short period of time.”

Until the rover is allowed to resume its experiments, the science team has plenty of data and images to study that have already been collected from Glen Torridon. A potential drilling spot is located 656 feet (200 meters) from the rover’s current location and the next actual commands sent to the spacecraft may very well be instructions moving it to that site.

“The science team is eager to drill our first sample from this fascinating location,” said JPL’s Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist. “We don’t yet understand how this area fits into the overall history of Mount Sharp, so our recent images give us plenty to think about.”

With the recent end of mission for the Opportunity rover, which fell silent last summer, Curiosity is the only active rover on the surface of Mars. A lander named InSight touched down on the plains of Elysium Planitia in November 2018 and is the only other active mission on the Martian surface. Another rover is currently slated to launch to the Red Planet in 2020.

 

 

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Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

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