Emerging Tech

Curiosity suffered a boot issue but is now back up and roving

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars took this image with its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on February 10, 2019. The rover is currently exploring a region of Mount Sharp nicknamed “Glen Torridon” that has lots of clay minerals. NASA/JPL

The NASA team has been dealing with a small hiccup in the operations of the Curiosity rover since it went into safe mode last week. Now that problem has been resolved and the rover is booting up again, ready to resume its mission to explore Mars.

The issue occurred last Friday during a boot-up sequence which lead to the systems going into safe mode in order to protect themselves. Fortunately a few days later the NASA team was able to bring the rover out of safe mode and resume normal operations, and since then the rover has booted up over 30 times without any further problems, so the team are confident that the issue has been fixed.

The researchers still don’t know exactly why the issue occurred, though. “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 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “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 they have figured out what the problem is, the team is being careful by limiting the commands that they send to the rover. This will minimize the changes made to its memory so that the team can gather all of the data that it needs on possible causes of the issue. Researchers will need to suspend science operations while they troubleshoot the problem, but they are hopeful this won’t take long.

Once the cause of the problem has been addressed, Curiosity will be able to resume its exploration of the Glen Torridon area where it is currently based. There are plentiful clay minerals in the soil which the researchers are interested in because they show that there was once water present in the area. The team has picked a nearby new drill site for Curiosity, just 656 feet (200 meters) from the rover’s current position.

“The science team is eager to drill our first sample from this fascinating location,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist said in a statement. “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.”

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