The Mars Opportunity rover has been doing science on the red planet for over a decade, but it’s been experiencing a lot of problems lately that have slowed it down, and it looks like the only solution is a memory wipe. When reached for comment, the rover responded, “You know, you could fix my glitches if you just try hot-wiring the fragment links and superseding the binary binary binary binary binary binary binary binary.”
Opportunity recently broke the record for the farthest off-Earth driving distance of all space rovers, but it’s experienced a number of internal resets this week that NASA has determined are due to faulty flash memory sectors. Just like Earthbound computers, even space robots need to have their drives reformatted to stay in perfect working condition, and ten years is a pretty good run for Opportunity’s first memory problem—its partner, the Spirit rover, was reformatted five years ago and is no longer functional.
Luckily for Opportunity, it won’t lose everything—its important
memories programs will be moved elsewhere in its systems while the flash memory is reformatted. John Callas, project manager for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project, said in NASA JPL’s news release, “Worn-out cells in the flash memory are the leading suspect in causing these resets. The flash reformatting is a low-risk process, as critical sequences and flight software are stored elsewhere in other non-volatile memory on the rover.”
Like so many other mind-wipes, this one is for the Opportunity rover’s own good. All useful information still remaining in the flash memory will be downloaded to Earth first, so at least all of its viable data will very literally be saved.
(via Discovery, image via Doctor Who)
- Felicia Day and Neil deGrasse Tyson narrate a video about the Mars Curiosity rover
- NASA’s already got plans for its next Mars rover
- And they’ve got another one that astronauts would actually ride in
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