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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover Suffers Computer Glitch

March 3, 2013

By Cynthia Herbert :: 1:50 PM

Rover may have been struck by stray cosmic ray.NASA’s explorer on the red planet Mars, Curiosity, has been switched over to a backup onboard computer after issues were discovered with the main computer on the rover.

A file that was corrupted on the main computer was the source of the glitch, according to NASA. On Wednesday, the rover did not send its usual transmission of daily data collections to scientists on Earth, so Mission Control switched Curiosity over to a backup computer and suspend its scientific experiments and exploration for several days.

Like most vehicles in space, Curiosity has two computers on board. The main processor, known as the “A-side computer” is used for all day-to-day operations while the backup “B-side computer” waits for trouble, like this. When the B-side computer is upgraded with the data needed for rover control, NASA will move the rover out of its current safe mode.

Getting the B-side computer ready to control Curiosity will take some time, said NASA’s project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,  “we have probably several days, maybe a week of activities to get everything back and reconfigured,” he told

What caused the glitch in the file on Curiosity’s A-side computer is currently unknown, but scientists believe it might be the cause of a stray cosmic ray. Although the rover itself is radiation tolerant, there’s a limit to how it can hold up against cosmic rays. NASA’s Cook says that it is still possible to”get high-energy particles that can cause the memory to be corrupted. It certainly is a possibility and that’s what we’re looking into.”

Once the backup computer is updated and in control of the rover, NASA will attempt to get the main computer running again and have it function in a backup capacity.