Feeds

BAFFLING power cockup halts NASA's nuclear Mars tank Curiosity

Rover's voltage wobbles, probe launches probe

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
NASA eyeballs SOLAR HEAT BOMBS, MINI-TORNADOES and NANOFLARES on Sun
Astro boffins probe fiery star's hidden depths
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
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.