Feeds

NASA ponders Spirit's erratic behaviour

Mars rover showing its age?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The team controlling NASA's Mars rover Spirit is planning to carry out some diagnostic tests on the venerable vehicle after it earlier this week indulged in some "unexplained behavior", as the agency puts it.

On Sunday, Spirit reported that it had "received its driving commands for the day but had not moved" - a correct decision if it didn't know its orientation. Accordingly, NASA on Tuesday commanded the rover to re-establish its bearings by pinpointing the sun with its camera.

Spirit later confirmed it had located the sun, "but not in its expected location".

What's further baffling NASA boffins is that Spirit didn't record Sunday's main activities "into the non-volatile memory", which preserves data even when the power's off. They suggest one possible cause of this are "transitory effects from cosmic rays hitting electronics", although they're really not sure what's going on.

Sharon Laubach, head of the team that writes and checks the rover's commands, admitted: "We don't have a good explanation yet for the way Spirit has been acting for the past few days."

The wobbly rover has, though, now made a full recovery. Project manager John Callas said yesterday: “Right now, Spirit is under normal sequence control, reporting good health and responsive to commands from the ground."

Spirit landed in the Red Planet's southern hemisphere on 3 January 2004, and has far outperformed its initial mission target of three months.

Earlier this month, the rover was dispatched to "a pair of destinations about 183 meters (200 yards) south of the site where Spirit spent most of 2008".

NASA explained: "One is a mound that might yield support for an interpretation that a plateau Spirit has studied since 2006, called Home Plate, is a remnant of a once more-extensive sheet of explosive volcanic material. The other destination is a house-size pit called Goddard."

Goddard, the agency elaborated, "might be a volcanic explosion crater, and that's something we haven't seen before". ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.