Science Space

Curiosity rover is switching brains after its primary computer broke down

Curiosity rover is switching brains after its primary computer broke down

Wouldn’t it be great if we had two brains and we could switch one off whenever we feel stressed or so? Since humans can’t do that, machines can. In fact, we are talking about the Mars Curiosity rover, a state-of-the-art multimillion dollars rover that was sent to the red planet in 2011 and reached in 2012 and has since been busy making achievements in terms of discoveries and research all across the planet.

The Curiosity rover has two brains i.e. Side-A and Side-B which aren’t two halves of a single brain but two identical central processing systems that can work in the congregation or as standalone when required. When the rover was sent on Mars, it had the Side-A activated, however, something in February 2013 when it completed sol 200 on Mars, the Side-A brain began experiencing a glitch as it couldn’t take any commands from the command center on Earth.

Because of it, engineers had to switch to the Side-B brain while the Side-A underwent digital surgery to find and fix the problem. Since then, Curiosity rover has been working on the Side-B brain for years now until September 15 when it suddenly experienced a problem sending the data back to the Earth. The rover has completed sol 2,200 now and still running and since Mars had one of the largest dust storms that stayed active for two months engulfing Opportunity Rover which is yet to make contact with the Earth, researchers had to switch Curiosity to its Side-A brain.

Although Curiosity can work on Side-A computer without any glitch, Side-B has a larger storage and therefore, engineers will have to find workarounds to fix the Side-B computer so that they can switch back. The reason why Side-A has low storage is due to the fact as it underwent problem in 2013 after which, a part of the memory had to be quarantined leaving little space for its storage. It took a week of preparation so that engineers can finally switch from Side-B to Side-A after which, the latter will run a diagnosis on the former to detect the problem and fix it while on the move.

Opportunity Rover

The researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) stated that they had to spend the last week trying to swap Curiosity from Side-B to Side-A and it is active now. Further, they said that JPL plans to swap the computers back when the affected computer is fixed to utilize its larger memory, however, there is no timeline available for it. As of now, NASA is also attempting to contact Opportunity rover which has been under hibernation for a few weeks now after the worst dust storm engulfed the Martian atmosphere with a thick blanket of sand and since the storm has abated, it will take few weeks before Opportunity attempts to contact back somewhere around early 2019.

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