Even space robots can have a bad day. At least, that’s the latest news coming from NASA regarding Curiosity, the Mars rover. Curiosity suffered a glitch and had to go into a protective “safe mode.”
It all started when its handlers noticed that there was a problem with the rover’s flash memory on the primary “A-side” computer. When Curiosity’s handlers switched the rover to its backup computer, it went into a low activity state, a protective “safe mode.” Curiosity’s handlers are still unsure of the reason for the glitch.
NASA engineers have speculated that one possible cause of the glitch could have been impact by a cosmic ray, which is a high-energy charged particle. Though Curiosity is created with radiation tolerant gear, it can still be vulnerable to damage from cosmic rays. NASA has indicated that this type of problem has occurred in the past with other pieces of memory on other missions. However, they also report that cosmic ray damage is generally short lived. Engineers believe that the problem could disappear once the A-side computer is turned back on.
However, the rover is on the way to recovery and is back out of safe mode. It has resumed using its high-gain antenna and is expected to soon return to its mission. NASA has stated that Curiosity is the most complex robotic explorer ever sent to another planet. Curiosity on a quest to find out if Mars was ever capable of sustaining microbial life. It landed on Mars last August and is on a two-year mission. In Curiosity’s $2.5 billion quest to investigate the habitability of Mars, the one ton robot has already found multiple signs of the planet’s past exposure to liquid water, including a streambed. Let’s hope that the glitch can be quickly fixed, so that Curiosity can get back to its important work of satisfying our Curiosity about the possibility of life on Mars.
[Image via aviationweek]