Mars Rover Curiosity is switching brains so it can fix itself

Whenever you ship one thing to area, it’s good to have redundancy. Typically you wish to ship two entire duplicate spacecraft simply in case — as was the case with Voyager — however typically it’s adequate to have two of important elements. Mars Rover Curiosity is no exception, and it is now within the strategy of switching from one most important “brain” to the opposite so it can do digital surgical procedure on the primary.

Curiosity landed on Mars with two central computing programs, Facet-A and Facet-B (not left mind and proper mind — that might invite an excessive amount of silliness). They’re good duplicates of one another, or had been — it was one thing of a bumpy experience, in spite of everything, and cosmic radiation could flip a bit right here and there.

The staff was grateful to have made these preparations when, on sol 200 in February of 2013 (we’re nearly to sol 2,200 now), the Facet-A pc skilled a glitch that ended up taking the entire rover offline. The answer was to swap over to Facet-B, which was up and working shortly afterwards and sending diagnostic knowledge for its twin.

Having run for a number of years with no points, Facet-B is now, nevertheless, having its personal issues. Since September 15 it has been unable to report mission knowledge, and it doesn’t seem like an issue that the pc can remedy itself. Fortuitously, within the intervening interval, Facet-A has been mounted as much as working situation — although it has a bit much less reminiscence than it used to, since some corrupted sectors needed to be quarantined.

“We spent the last week checking out Side A and preparing it for the swap,” mentioned Steven Lee, deputy venture supervisor of the Curiosity program at JPL, in a mission standing report. “We are operating on Side A starting today, but it could take us time to fully understand the root cause of the issue and devise workarounds for the memory on Side B. It’s certainly possible to run the mission on the Side-A computer if we really need to. But our plan is to switch back to Side B as soon as we can fix the problem to utilize its larger memory size.”

No timeline simply but for the way that may occur, however the staff is assured that they’ll have issues again on monitor quickly. The mission isn’t in jeopardy — however this is instance of how system of redundancies can add years to the lifetime of area {hardware}.