Cu­rios­ity stops trans­mit­ting science

The fault seems to lie in the rover’s pri­mary com­puter

Sky at Night Magazine - - MARS UPDATE -

SEPTEM­BER

On 15 Septem­ber, Cu­rios­ity was drilling in the Vera Ru­bin ridge when mis­sion con­trollers re­alised some­thing was amiss: the science and en­gi­neer­ing data they had been ex­pect­ing wasn’t com­ing in.

The rover was still trans­mit­ting ‘real-time’ data, but this could only be picked up when a re­lay or­biter or the Deep Space Net­work was in the cor­rect po­si­tion. This in­for­ma­tion re­vealed that, me­chan­i­cally speak­ing, Cu­rios­ity was op­er­at­ing nor­mally; the fault was in its rover’s com­puter.

Though at time of writ­ing the ex­act cause of the prob­lem is un­known, en­gi­neers are en­deav­our­ing to get the rover back to full work­ing or­der. If they are un­able to fix the pri­mary com­puter there is a backup they can switch to, though this sec­ondary com­puter has suf­fered from hard­ware and soft­ware is­sues in the past. In the mean­time, NASA or­dered Cu­rios­ity to turn off its science in­stru­ments while en­gi­neers do their work. As we went to press the of­fi­cial line was, “Mis­sion team mem­bers are op­ti­mistic they can get the six-wheeled ro­bot up and run­ning again.”

With the Op­por­tu­nity rover also out of ac­tion, the Red Planet could be qui­eter than ex­pected when In­Sight ar­rives in Novem­ber.

Sadly, re­sults from Cu­rios­ity’s drilling may be a thing of the past un­less it can be re­vived

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