NASA today announced that Mars rover Curiosity resumed its exploration of Mars this weekend. The rover’s exploration had been suspended last week following an unexpected electrical issue.
This is the second time in November that Curiosity has been reactivated following an unexpected technical glitch. The first occurred when the rover unexpectedly booted into safe mode after a software conflict.
This latest malfunction saw Curiosity’s voltage drop significantly, down to 4 volts from the steady 11 it had been operating at since shortly after launch. NASA last week attributed the drop to a soft short in which voltage could be leaking through a partially conductive material. NASA stated today that the likely cause of the voltage drop was an internal short in Curiosity’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.
On Saturday, November 23, the rover was found to have returned to its original 11 volt level. Researchers are confident that the drop has not affected the ability of Curiosity to complete its mission, as the rover has a floating bus designed to operate under a range of voltage differences. Having witnessed similar shorts on other machines, however, researchers believe that Curiosity’s voltage could drop again in the future.
After conducting diagnostic tests on curiosity, NASA resumed science operations with the rover this weekend. Its first task was to deliver a powdered rock sample into a testing lab on the rover. The sample had been kept by Curiosity in its arm since drilling a Martian rock six months ago. The rover is currently on a months-long journey to the base of a mountain named Mount Sharp where the rover will investigate the rock layers exposed at that site.