The Curiosity Rover Unexpectedly Goes Into "Safe Mode"

Friday, 08 July 2016 - 11:28AM
Space
Mars
Friday, 08 July 2016 - 11:28AM
The Curiosity Rover Unexpectedly Goes Into "Safe Mode"
Over Fourth of July weekend, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover went into a precautionary stand-down, for reasons still unknown. The rover put itself into "safe mode," which maintains its operations without moving around on Mars or continuing its science mission.

Luckily, the rover is stable now, and communicating with researchers on Earth. But engineers still don't know what went wrong, and that would need to be determined before it can resume normal operations.

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"Curiosity is now communicating with ground controllers and is stable," NASA said in a statement. "The rover put itself into safe mode on July 2, ceasing most activities other than keeping itself healthy and following a prescribed sequence for resuming communications.
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Although all conclusions are just preliminary at this point, NASA stated that the early data indicates an error in the communication between the rover's camera software and the data-processing software back on Earth. They are currently requesting more diagnostic information from Curiosity itself, and expect to know more in the next few days.

Although this sounds somewhat ominous, it's not unprecedented. Curiosity had a string of glitches in 2013, which led to three instances of entering safe mode. They were all fairly innocuous--one glitch was the result of the Sun temporarily disrupting communications while the rover was at close proximity--and all three times, NASA was able to diagnose the error and the rover made a full recovery. There are many different explanations, but there's no reason to think NASA won't be able to fix the problem.

But considering that it happened right around fourth of July, I think we all know what really happened:
Science
NASA
Space
Mars

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