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Curiosity suffers glitch, halts operations on Red Planet

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 19:49

Zee Media Bureau

Pasadena, California: NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity has suffered a glitch on November 17, halting all roving and science observations for a few days on the Red Planet.

The US space agency said the glitch – a soft short or a voltage fluctuation, was detected by the engineers on Sunday between the chassis and the 32-volt power bus that distributes electricity to systems throughout the rover. The voltage level on the robotic rover had been about 11 volts since its landing on August 5, 2012, but now is holding at 4 volts.

According to Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Jim Erickson at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “The vehicle is safe and stable, fully capable of operating in its present condition, but we are taking the precaution of investigating what may be a soft short.”

According to NASA, a “soft short” is a leak through something that’s partially conductive of electricity, rather than a “hard short” that’s caused by one wire contacting another.

Engineers are working on the problems and hope to resume the science observations on the Red Planet as early as this weekend.

However, this is not the first time that a soft short was experienced by Curiosity. The rover experienced a similar glitch on its landing day, which was related to the “explosive-release devices used for deployments.”

NASA’s engineers will now check all the systems for potential root causes during the next few days. “Analysis so far has determined that the change appeared intermittently three times during the hours before it became persistent”, said NASA.

First Published: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 18:50
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