NASA’s multimillion-dollar Curiosity rover has been rolling around the harsh surface of Mars for more than three years, and it has the wear and tear to prove it — but the latest issue could leave the ‘bot sidelined for a while.
NASA is reporting that Curiosity suffered a “transient short circuit” on Feb. 27 while transferring sample powder from its robotic arm to scientific instruments on its body. When that happened, Curiosity froze and waited for further instruction, as it has been programmed to do. Teams are now working to determine how severe the issue was, as it could potentially affect the usability of some rover components.
The short occurred during a relatively routine maneuver, though, considering the effect all that dirt and exposure is having on the rover, it seems something might’ve been affected. The sample powder came from a rock target called Telegraph Peak, and NASA reports that the same transfer process was completed smoothly with samples from five previous drilling targets in 2013 and 2014.
"We are running tests on the vehicle in its present configuration before we move the arm or drive," said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This gives us the best opportunity to determine where the short is."
In the meantime, NASA says Curiosity will be sidelined for “several days” while they troubleshoot the issue and determine what the next command should be. Basically, they want to make sure that whatever is done next, it won’t exacerbate the problems.
Here’s hoping the minds at NASA can get Curiosity back on track soon.