Washington: NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is back in action, after engineers have fixed the software snag which put the robot on a precautionary ‘standby’ mode earlier this week.

“We expect to get back to sample-analysis science by the end of the week,” said Curiosity Mission Manager Jennifer Trosper of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California.

Curiosity went into a precautionary ‘safe mode’ on March 16, after being sidelined by a computer glitch for the second time in three weeks.


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

Engineers diagnosed the software issue and know how to prevent it from happening again, according to a JPL statement.

Next steps will include checking the rover’s active computer, the B-side computer, by commanding a preliminary free-space move of the arm.

The B-side computer was provided information last week about the position of the robotic arm, which was last moved by the redundant A-side computer.

The rover was switched from the A-side to the B-side by engineers on February 28 in response to a memory glitch on the A-side. The A-side now is available as a back-up if needed.

However, Curiosity only has about two weeks to continue analysing the drill sample it recently collected from a Yellowknife Bay rock, before it is forced to take another break.

Beginning April 4, all commands to the rover will be suspended for four weeks due to solar system geometry of Mars passing nearly directly behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective.

The suspension is a precaution against interference by the Sun corrupting a command sent to the rover.


Publish date: March 21, 2013 3:46 pm| Modified date: March 21, 2013 3:46 pm

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