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.
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.”