NASA today confirmed that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is still functional following a reboot into safe mode on March 9. According to the agency the orbiter rebooted itself after an unscheduled swap of its main computer to a backup. In addition, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter also swapped to a backup radio transponder during the event, which researchers are now using to communicate with the satellite.
The orbiter team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is currently restoring the spacecraft to full operational status, but have not yet determined the cause of the computer swap. This marks the fifth time the orbiter has booted into safe mode following an unplanned computer swap. The cause of the previous swaps has also not been determined.
"The spacecraft is healthy, in communication and fully powered," said Dan Johnston, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Manager at JPL. "We have stepped up the communication data rate, and we plan to have the spacecraft back to full operations within a few days."
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been gathering data from its orbit around Mars for almost exactly eight years, including observations of snow and dust storms on the Martian surface. In addition to its science operations the satellite is used to relay data from NASA's two functioning Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity. The orbiter's operations have been temporarily suspended following the computer swap and the rovers are currently using NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter to communicate with Earth.
Image via NASA/JPL