Curiosity Rover Hits a Glitch on Mars

Curiosity Rover

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory team quietly revived the Curiosity Rover in a matter of days.

After four years roaming Mars, the Curiosity Rover went on a temporary shutdown, leaving no clues as to what caused the event. As it’s not the first time the spacecraft encounters troubles, the JPL team kept calm and remotely solved the issue.

The explorer encountered an error and decided to cease all activities and enter safe mode. Since then, the scientists have tried to restore the rover’s functions.

The revival happened after four days of intense work from the NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Curiosity is now up and running, and the communication with the ground controller had been re-established.

“The rover put itself into safe mode on July 2, ceasing most activities other than keeping itself healthy and following a prescribed sequence for resuming communications,” said the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team in a press release.

The current hypothesis is that the rover encountered a software difficulty, as the data processing algorithm clashed against the camera program. However, the scientists wait for new information from the vehicle which may clarify them as to what happened out on Mars.

Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012. Its exact location is the Gale Crater, in the Aeolis quadrangle, where it studies the topography of the area and tries to find new evidence of the planet’s history.

Since the start of the mission, the explorer has already proven that 3 billion years ago the crater hosted water likes and rivers. Scientists believe that at that distant point in time, there were favorable conditions for life on Mars, or at least for microbial life.

The current mission involves gathering more information on the ancient hospitable environment and on the events that made Mars dry and inhabitable.

NASA approved an extension of the mission, which will start on the 1st of October 2016 and will involve two more years of exploration. As this is not the first time the rover is revived, maybe Curiosity will have enough lives to complete the two-year extension.

Technical problems in space are not as scarce as they seem, and neither are they fatalistic. Curiosity encountered three software issues in 2013, and each time the team of engineers managed to solve them and get the explorer on its path.

Another example is the Kepler space telescope, which went into emergency mode at more than 12 million kilometers away. Even if the scientists still do not know what happened, they managed to restore the observatory in just a matter of days.

Image Source: Wikipedia