Feeds

BAFFLING power cockup halts NASA's nuclear Mars tank Curiosity

Rover's voltage wobbles, probe launches probe

Boost IT visibility and business value

NASA has halted its rover Curiosity on Mars for a few days while engineers on Earth attempt to figure out what caused an electrical fault in the robot.

Curiosity self-portrait at Rocknest in the Gale Crater

Space selfie ... Curiosity in the Gale Crater on Mars (Credit: NASA)

The space agency was quick to reassure everyone that their favorite nuclear-powered truck was still safe and stable, and even fully capable of operation. But engineers, who were alerted to the fault on November 17, still want a crack at figuring out what went wrong.

"We are taking the precaution of investigating what may be a soft short," said Jim Erickson, Mars Science Laboratory project manager, referring to a type of electrical fault caused by something that's partially or temporarily conductive, rather than a hard short such as one wire touching another and conducting electricity.

According to NASA, Curiosity's team detected a change in the voltage difference between the chassis and the 32-volt bus that distributes power to systems in the rover. The level has been holding steady at about eleven volts since landing day, but had fallen to four volts.

This isn't the first time the rover has had a soft short - it already went through one on landing day. That one was related to explosive-release devices used for deployments before and after it touched down, and it lowered the voltage from about 16 volts to 11.

The engineers are hoping to spend the next few days trying to find possible root causes for the voltage change. So far, they know that the electricity flickered a few times in the hours before the drop and that the issue didn't cause the rover to enter safe-mode. ®

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 ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
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
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
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.
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.