Mars Rover Curiosity Swaps Computers


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NASA announced today that Mars rover Curiosity has switched onboard computers as a result of a "memory issue" experienced on its active computer. The issue has brought research by the rover to a halt.

The swap to the rover's redundant computer took place yesterday and placed the rover into a "safe mode." Over then next several days the rover team will be bringing the rover into operational status.

"We switched computers to get to a standard state from which to begin restoring routine operations," said Richard Cook, project manager for the Mars Science Laboratory Project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

These computer issues are surfacing just as Curiosity is in the midst of a historical sample analysis. Earlier this week the rover had begun analyzing two small samples of rock powder taken from the inside of a Martian rock using the rover's hammering drill.

The computer issue was revealed on Wednesday, February 27 when the rover failed to send recorded data back to Earth, instead sending only status information. It was found that Curiosity had not entered its latest planned "sleep mode." The "memory issue" on Curiosity's first computer is thought to be related to a corrupted flash memory.

The rover will now operate on its "B-side" computer, which was tested during its flight to Mars. The "A-side" computer was used from the rover's landing on the red planet until this week.

"While we are resuming operations on the B-side, we are also working to determine the best way to restore the A-side as a viable backup," said Magdy Bareh, leader of the mission's anomaly resolution team at JPL.

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)