Opportunity Mars Rover Plagued By Flash Memory Problems, But Carries On

NASA’s aging Mars rover is still struggling with Flash memory after several months of controllers trying to work around frequent resets and amnesia events, according to a recent update.

The Opportunity rover is coming up on its 11th anniversary of landing on Mars, and is busy exploring the rim of Endeavour crater, en route to a region that could have clay minerals (showing evidence of water). But the rover has been dogged by frequent memory problems that forced a reformat in September, with only partial success.

While the updates have said the rover is still performing science, NASA says in a Dec. 4 to Dec. 9 update of the mission that the Flash memory was reformatted once again, and that controllers don’t plan to use any of it for the time being. Flash is useful because it retains data even when the rover is turned off. NASA is instead storing “data products” in RAM format.

“Longer term, the project is developing a strategy to mask off the troubled sector of Flash and resume using the remainder of the Flash file system,” NASA stated.

Highlights of the rover’s 10-year mission on Mars are in this Universe Today article, and also in the video below.

5 Replies to “Opportunity Mars Rover Plagued By Flash Memory Problems, But Carries On”

  1. OH NO, Oppy has dementia! Say it ain’t so… Cosmic rays you say? Or how about tribo electric charges built up in the deposited dust?

  2. Is it no wonder that its the solid state electronics giving way? I’ve gone through more than one computer that had either memory or cpu fail. Even without cosmic ray hits, the components have finite lifetime. Flash memory in particular is only rated for so many read/write cycles. Then add to that the extreme conditions of Mars and exposure to rays. Key components of all spacecraft are radiation-hardened (rad-hard) but there are limits to what can be done with flash. Lets hope for the best but its really remarkable that the mechanical system of Oppy has outlived the electronics. Great job done by the MER management and drivers.

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