Feeds

NASA ponders Spirit's erratic behaviour

Mars rover showing its age?

Business security measures using SSL

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". ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.