Memory Problems Plague Martian Rover Opportunity As It Prepares To Watch A Comet Pass By

NASA’s Opportunity rover is still experiencing frequent memory resets as it roams the Martian terrain near Endeavour Crater, even though the agency performed a reset a few weeks ago.

Officials, however, say the rover is healthy otherwise and ready for its next science goals: reaching a small crater dubbed Ulysses, and watching a comet pass by Mars in mid-October.

Opportunity is approaching its eleventh anniversary of working on Mars this coming January. The hardy rover has driven 25.34 miles (40.78 kilometers) as of late September, almost a marathon’s worth of exploration. Its original mandate was to last just 90 Earth days on Mars.

In late August, however, science was getting derailed because the aging rover’s Flash memory experienced frequent resets. This kind of memory stores information even while the rover is turned off. NASA did a reformat from afar and said at the time that the procedure worked perfectly, but in the weeks since Opportunity has experienced several resets. The agency is investigating what to do next.

Tracks from the Curiosity rover across Martian terrain on Sol 3,798 in September 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

NASA’s Opportunity update archive reports memory resets on Sept. 17, 20, 22, 23, 24 and 26. The agency is calling these events “benign” and the rover is performing drives and science amid the issues.

Among its work, in late September the rover did a twilight test of its panoramic camera to get ready for observations of Comet Siding Spring, which is skimming the Red Planet on Oct. 19, 2014.

On the surface, the rover has been examining ejecta of the small crater Ulysses and doing close-up observations of a rock surface nicknamed “Hoover”. Opportunity’s long-term science goal is to reach a zone dubbed Marathon Valley, where there could be clay minerals that formed in water.

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Recent Posts

Curiosity Rover is Climbing Through Dramatic Striped Terrain on Mars

Just about every day we here on Earth get a breathtaking picture of Mars's terrain…

3 hours ago

A Giant Gamma-Ray Bubble is a Source of Extreme Cosmic Rays

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are one of the most powerful phenomena in the Universe and something…

4 hours ago

New Study Addresses how Lunar Missions will Kick up Moondust.

Before the end of this decade, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon for…

2 days ago

How Warm Are the Oceans on the Icy Moons? The Ice Thickness Provides a Clue.

Scientists are discovering that more and more Solar System objects have warm oceans under icy…

2 days ago

NASA Tests the New Starship Docking System

The Apollo Program delivered 12 American astronauts to the surface of the Moon. But that…

2 days ago

China Has Built a Huge Space Simulation Chamber

Well it certainly caught my attention when I saw the headlines  “China’s first Space Environment…

2 days ago