Feeds

NASA ponders Spirit's erratic behaviour

Mars rover showing its age?

High performance access to file storage

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". ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.