Curiosity stops transmitting science
The fault seems to lie in the rover’s primary computer
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