Mars Curiosity Rover Resumes Science Operations

Bluish Color in Broken Rock in 'Yellowknife Bay'

Bluish Color in Broken Rock in ‘Yellowknife Bay’
Interesting internal color in this rock called “Sutton_Inlier,” which was broken by the rover driving over it. This image was taken during the 174th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2013). The rock is about 5 inches (12 centimeters) wide at the end closest to the camera. This view is calibrated to estimated “natural” color, or approximately what the colors would look like if we were to view the scene ourselves on Mars. The inside of the rock, which is in the “Yellowknife Bay” area of Gale Crater, is much less red than typical Martian dust and rock surfaces, with a color verging on grayish to bluish.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars Curiosity rover has started science operations again after experiencing a ground controller initiated safe mode and transition to a backup computer and then an automatic safe mode initiated by the rover due to a software issue. The rover remains on the B-side or backup computer while engineers test and evaluate the A-side computer and memory to determine if it is still viable and able to serve as a backup to the now prime B-Side should it encounter an issue.

mars rover wheel

View From Camera Not Used During Curiosity’s First Six Months on Mars
This view of Curiosity’s left-front and left-center wheels and of marks made by wheels on the ground. The left Navigation Camera (Navcam) linked to Curiosity’s B-side computer took this image during the 223rd Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (March 22, 2013). The wheels are 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter.
All six of the B-side engineering cameras have been used during March 2013 and checked out OK.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover has been monitoring the weather since March 21 and delivered a new portion of powdered-rock sample for laboratory analysis on March 23, among other activities.

“We are back to full science operations,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The powder delivered on Saturday came from the rover’s first full drilling into a rock to collect a sample. The new portion went into the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument inside the rover, which began analyzing this material and had previously analyzed other portions from the same drilling. SAM can analyze samples in several different ways, so multiple portions from the same drilling are useful.

One aspect of ramping-up activities after switching to the B-side computer has been to check the six engineering cameras that are hard-linked to that computer. The rover’s science instruments, including five science cameras, can each be operated by either the A-side or B-side computer, whichever is active. However, each of Curiosity’s 12 engineering cameras is linked to just one of the computers. The engineering cameras are the Navigation Camera (Navcam), the Front Hazard-Avoidance Camera (Front Hazcam) and Rear Hazard-Avoidance Camera (Rear Hazcam).

Each of those three named cameras has four cameras on it: two stereo pairs of cameras, with one pair linked to each computer. Only the pairs linked to the active computer can be used, and the A-side computer was active from before landing, in August, until Feb. 28.”This was the first use of the B-side engineering cameras since April 2012, on the way to Mars,” said JPL’s Justin Maki, team lead for these cameras. “Now we’ve used them on Mars for the first time, and they’ve all checked out OK.”

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Recipient of many prestigious NASA Awards including the Exceptional Public Service Medal and the Robert H. Goddard award. Experience includes working for NASA, as a contractor, in satellite design, construction and operations. Expert in the satellite operations concepts and ground systems including command, control, and science data processing.