Curiosity Out of Safe Mode, Ready to Resume Mars Exploration

The rover is out of safe mode as the Curiosity team prepares for next month's command moratorium

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013  |  Updated 2:29 PM PDT
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Curiosity Out of Safe Mode, Ready to Resume Mars Exploration

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines 66 exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013).

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Rover Curiosity is out of safe mode and ready to resume its mission on the surface of Mars, scientists announced Tuesday.

The rover had been in safe mode for about two days so the rover team could analyze a software issue. The automated safe-mode trigger was activated when a command file did not pass a size check conducted by the rover's protective software.

The issue was addressed and scientists "know how to prevent it from happening again," according to a news release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"We expect to get back to sample-analysis science by the end of the week," said mission manager Jennifer Trosper of Southern California's JPL.

Scientists plan to test the rover's now-active B-side computer -- Curiosity has redundant computer systems A and B -- to make sure it responds to information sent last week regarding the position of the rover's robotic arm. The arm will be commanded to move, something last done using the rover's A-side computer.

The rover was switched from A-side to B Feb. 28 after a memory glitch on the A-side. A-side was restored earlier this month, and it has now become Curiosity's back-up, if needed.

The switch back to active mode comes just before engineers place a planned moratorium on transmitting commands to the rover. The moratorium will last for most of April because Mars will pass behind the sun as seen from Earth.

The move is a precaution to prevent commands from being corrupted before they reach Curiosity.

The command blackout comes after an exciting month of discovery for Curiosity and the rover team. Last week, the team revealed that analysis of a powdery sample of rock drilled from near Curiosity's landing site shows conditions were once suited for ancient life on Mars.

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