Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Curiosity awakens from nap to resume full operations

Curiosity is back to work on Mars after it shut itself down due to a software glitch on July 2nd. Even though tech support for the rover is nearly 60 million miles away, NASA scientists weren't too worried about the issue.
As suspected, the cause was found to be a "software mismatch in one mode of how image data are transferred on board." However, other means are available to transmit image data, so the team powered up the rover on July 9th and will simply avoid using the problematic mode.
Curiosity has gone into safe mode several times before, all back in 2013. However, the previous glitches were more serious, as NASA actually had to restore its software systems from a backup. The mission was recently extended for two years to let the robot make more breathtaking discoveries and hopefully even spot some water. It could be extended even further, but it's hard to say whether we'll get Opportunity-like endurance out of Curiosity. The nuclear-powered robot's plutonium-238 power supply could last up to 15 years, but it's likely that its batteries or other parts will break down first. Many scientists think that if it's still going when the Mars 2020 rover arrives on the red planet, that would be a great outcome.