Curiosity Rover Memory Issue Prompts Swap to Backup Computer

Memory error causes a precautionary swap to backup computer

rover self portrate

Curiosity Rover’s Self Portrait at ‘John Klein’ Drilling Site
This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines 66 exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013). Credit – NASA/JPL

The Curiosity Mars Rover experienced a memory issue which as resulted in a halt to normal operations. Controllers are executing a planned fail over to the back computer (Side B). Part of this process is a transition to a “safe mode” during which time there are minimal activities executed by the vehicle. The rover’s “B-side” computer assumed control via commands from the mission operations team on Feb. 28 when the “A-side” computer that the rover had been using demonstrated symptoms of a corrupted memory location. “We are making good progress in the recovery,” said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Richard Cook, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “One path of progress is evaluating the A-side with intent to recover it as a backup. Also, we need to go through a series of steps with the B-side, such as informing the computer about the state of the rover — the position of the arm, the position of the mast, that kind of information.”

The root cause of the issue is not yet know and is still being investigated.