NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) switched itself into a precautionary safe standby mode on Sunday after what NASA is calling “an unscheduled swap” from one main computer to another reported the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California that manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, Colorado. It was launched on August 12, 2005. Its main mission is to search for proof that water once existed on the surface of the “red planet” for a significant period of time. Scientists admit that it is not yet known if water was ever on the planet long enough to provide a “suitable habitat for life” on Mars.
NASA noted in a press release that the “Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s science observations and its relaying of communications from NASA’s two active Mars rovers (Curiosity and Opportunity ) have been suspended. The rovers continue to use NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter as a communications relay.” Their ground team, however, is currently hard at work restoring the MRO to “full operations” status.
This is not a new issue for the team. JPL reported that the “Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has experienced unplanned computer swaps triggering safe-mode entry four times previously, most recently in November 2011.” They do, however, admit that the “root cause of the previous events has not been determined.”
At present, things are looking up for the MOR however. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Manager Dan Johnston of the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated: “The spacecraft is healthy, in communication and fully powered. We have stepped up the communication data rate, and we plan to have the (MRO) spacecraft back to full operations within a few days.”
(Image courtesy of NASA)