The Curiosity rover is suffering from some sort of ailment that still remains unclear. NASA’s Mars explorer is expected to recover, however, if we take on its team members’ optimism that they can get the six-wheeled robot up and running once again. Last Saturday night, on the 15th of September, Curiosity started to have problems when it tried to beam back home certain engineering and science data which was stored in its memory.
The mission team investigates the problem and while they do that they decided to power down Curiosity from all science operations. Apparently, the rover’s internal file system is what caused this issue to appear. There is something blocking the rover from accessing its internal locations that are used to store the affected data. This comes directly from the Curiosity deputy project manager Steve Lee, who is part of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Lee spoke with Space.com through email and he said that “The team is methodically narrowing down potential causes but hasn’t yet determined if it’s hardware- or software-related”. Besides this, there is good news as well. Overall, Curiosity remains stable and responsive. It is capable of sending home real-time engineering data, which is exactly what the folks back home need to try and solve the problem.
This means that the current situation isn’t a time-critical one, as opposed to what happened after Curiosity landed on the Red Planet in August, 2012. Then, the rover’s computer encountered troubles that made the rover inactive for about 200 sols (or Martian days). Lee said that “during the Sol 200 anomaly, the rover was not responding to commands, nor was it sleeping to recharge its battery”. So, the team is definitely not discouraged, although the current problem is still technically complex.
Frank Mullen is the lead editor for Miami Morning Star. Frank has written for several publications including the Orlando Sentinel and the Huffington Post. Frank is based in Palm Beach and covers issues affecting his city and the Palm Beach county. When he’s not busy writing, Frank enjoys playing flying drones.