NASA has announced that their already famous rover Curiosity has stumbled over some technical difficulties in its current Mars reconnaissance mission, particularly concerning its robotic arm.
The space agency said that the rover is suffering from sporadic short-circuits of its robotic arm, which plays an important role in its rock drilling operations.
The robot seems to have automatically stopped in the middle of processing rock powder samples when its sensors detected unusually high current spikes throughout its drilling arm. After running a series of tests meant to re-enact the conditions of Curiosity’s problem, NASA technicians were faced with another short-circuiting of the same arm.
However, the space agency claims that these problems are not in danger of threatening the rover’s multi-billion dollar mission, which mainly consists of collecting and analyzing samples from the red planet’s soil and rock layers.
Curiosity’s mission managers expect the rover to be able to use its arm again somewhere during next week, after technicians will run tests and program the robot to adjust its parameters so that the short-circuit won’t happen again.
The rover has already been on Martian surface for the last two and a half years, and NASA operators did not exactly have the best of times with it. Despite it functioning as intended most of time, the short circuiting of its robotic arm is not the first time the rover has experienced technical problems during the mission.
One of its onboard computers became corrupted in early March 2013, just a couple of months after its landing on Earth’s neighboring planet, delaying planned operations with a couple of weeks. A software short-circuit also kept it from doing its intended work for a couple of days in November 2013.
Besides the usual “do you need a helping hand?” jokes that could be made about the affair, it remains to be seen if these continued malfunctions will become the rover’s end or if it will successfully live to see its 2020 counterpart that it is setting the stage for.
Image Source: NASA
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