NASA reported on Friday that there’s a good chance they’ll have the Mars Rover Curiosity back in full operating mode as early as next week. The Mars rover has been in standby mode since February 27th when NASA engineers noted a current fluctuation in Curiosity’s systems. The rover automatically switches to standby when it suffers a short circuit, even if it is not a major problem.
Short found in Mars rover’s arm
NASA first reported the “transient short circuit” last week, but engineers weren’t sure where it originated. The space agency’s March 3rd statement noted: “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. “This gives us the best opportunity to determine where the short is.”
In the statement on Friday, NASA says they have located the short in the rover’s robotic arm and are double-checking all systems. So far it does not look like the short did any significant damage to the Mars rover’s control systems.
Short circuit originated in the percussion mechanism of the drill on rover’s robotic arm
It looks like a part of the drill in the arm is causing the current fluctuation. “The most likely cause is an intermittent short in the percussion mechanism of the drill,” Erickson said in a statement on Friday. “After further analysis to confirm that diagnosis, we will be analyzing how to adjust for that in future drilling.”
Additional tests then back to normal operations
Friday’s statement also noted: “The rover team plans further testing to characterize the intermittent short before the arm is moved from its present position, in case the short does not appear when the orientation is different. After those tests, the team expects to finish processing the sample powder that the arm currently holds and then to deliver portions of the sample to onboard laboratory instruments.”
The NASA engineers also said they expect that Curiosity will be moving its arm and be fully operational sometime next week.