Imaging Problems for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Dunes in Proctor Crater. Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of ArizonaAlthough NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is about to break the record for science data returned from the Red Planet, it’s got a couple of problems that could be getting worse.

In November 2006, spacecraft operators noticed that one of its 14 camera detector pairs has been sending back images with increased noise, such as bad pixels. Unfortunately, this problem has spread, and now 5 other detectors are suffering the same glitch. Although this isn’t a big deal on image quality, and the operators have ways of minimizing its impact, they aren’t sure if the problem is going to get worse.

The second problem is with the spacecraft’s Climate Sounder. This instrument is supposed to map out the planet’s temperature, ice clouds and dust distributions on each of 13 orbits it does every day. Unfortunately, the detector started skipping steps in December 2006, so that its field of view has been getting out of position. The errors from the instrument have become more frequent, so it’s been taken offline until engineers can figure out a solution.

Original Source: NASA News Release