Mars rover Curiosity suffers another technical glitch
Cape Canaveral: NASA's ambitious Mars mission was hit by another technical snag when the six-wheel Curiosity rover entered safe mode following a software file error on Sunday.
Engineers had hoped to resume Curiosity science operations on Monday following a problem with the rover's main computer two weeks ago.
The latest complication occurred on Sunday night as the rover was attempting to radio data files back to Earth further delaying the restart of science experiments. Curiosity remained in contact with ground controllers, but it can’t zap rocks, snap pictures or roam around until the problem is fixed.
“We would definitely like to get over this and get back to doing something,” said project manager Richard Cook of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates the $2.5 billion mission.
Studies at the Gale Crater landing site have been on hold since the beginning of March after engineers discovered a problem with Curiosity’s computer memory, possibly caused by space radiation. The latest snafu isn’t as serious, but any unexpected problem throws off the schedule, Cook said.
It’s the longest stretch of inactivity since Curiosity’s daring touchdown near the Martian equator last year.
Before the glitch, the rover had radioed back to Earth its first analysis of rock samples drilled from the inside of slab of bedrock in the rover's Gale Crater landing site.
The rover touched down on August 6 to learn if the planet most like Earth has or ever had the chemical ingredients to support microbial life. The early results, announced last week, were a definitive yes.
Scientists also announced additional evidence on Monday that Curiosity is located in an area once flush with water, a key ingredient for life.
The rover is seven months into a planned two-year, $2.5 billion mission at Gale Crater, a giant impact basin located near the Martian equator. Scientists eventually want to explore a 3-mile (5-km) mountain of what appears to be layered sediments rising from the crater floor.