NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is resuming full operations today, following work by engineers to investigate why the rover put itself into a safe standby mode on July 2. The rover team brought Curiosity out of safe mode on July 9.
The most likely cause of entry into safe mode has been determined to be a software mismatch in one mode of how image data are transferred on board. Science activity planning for the rover is avoiding use of that mode, which involves writing images from some cameras’ memories into files on the rover’s main computer. Alternate means are available for handling and transmitting all image data.
Curiosity Rover Enters Precautionary Safe Mode
July 6, 2016
The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is taking steps to return the rover to full activity following a precautionary stand-down over the Fourth of July weekend.
Curiosity is now communicating with ground controllers and is stable. 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.
Engineers are working to determine the cause of safe-mode entry. Preliminary information indicates an unexpected mismatch between camera software and data-processing software in the main computer. The near-term steps toward resuming full activities begin with requesting more diagnostic information from Curiosity.
Curiosity has entered safe mode three times previously, all during 2013.
The rover landed in Mars’ Gale Crater in August 2012. During its first year on Mars, the mission achieved its goal by determining that, more than 3 billion years ago, the region offered fresh-water lakes and rivers with environmental conditions well-suited to supporting microbial life, if life has ever existed on Mars. In continuing investigations, the mission is learning more about the ancient wet environments and how and when they evolved to drier and less habitable conditions.
NASA last week approved an additional two-year extension, beginning Oct. 1, 2016, for the Mars Science Laboratory Project, which developed and operates Curiosity.