Curiosity Once Again in Safe Mode – If Only Briefly

Not even two and a half weeks after a memory glitch that sent NASA’s Curiosity rover into a safe mode on Feb. 27, the robotic Mars explorer once again went into standby status as the result of a software discrepancy — although mission engineers diagnosed the new problem quickly and anticipate having the rover out of safe mode in a couple of days.

“This is a very straightforward matter to deal with,” said Richard Cook, project manager for Curiosity at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “We can just delete that file, which we don’t need anymore, and we know how to keep this from occurring in the future.”

Via a JPL press release, issued March 18:

“Curiosity initiated this automated fault-protection action, entering ‘safe mode’ at about 8 p.m. PDT (11 p.m. EDT) on March 16, while operating on the B-side computer, one of its two main computers that are redundant to each other. It did not switch to the A-side computer, which was restored last week and is available as a back-up if needed. The rover is stable, healthy and in communication with engineers.

“The safe-mode entry was triggered when a command file failed a size-check by the rover’s protective software. Engineers diagnosed a software bug that appended an unrelated file to the file being checked, causing the size mismatch.”

 The rover is stable, healthy and in communication with engineers.

– NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Once Curiosity is back online its investigation into the watery history of Gale crater will resume, but another hiatus — this one planned — will commence on April 4, when Mars will begin passing behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective. Mission engineers will refrain from sending commands to the rover during a four-week period to avoid data corruption from solar interference.

Keep up with the latest news from the MSL mission here.

Then again, there’s a certain personality on Twitter who claims a slightly different reason for these recent setbacks…

 

Jason Major

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

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