NASA's Mars rover working again

After some long-distance troubleshooting, NASA engineers have the Mars rover Curiosity back up after almost two weeks of down time.

Curiosity, the robotic rover that has been working on the surface of Mars since August 2012, on Wednesday successfully moved a sample of powdered rock from its drill to onboard scientific instruments after the rover had sat motionless -- with the powder -- for 13 days.

That said, the rover is not yet able to drill for new powder. NASA engineers are still figuring out a fix for the short circuit, and until they do, the drill isn't operational. But the rover can move around.

And move it will. Now that Curiosity has been taken out of safe mode, it will soon continue on its journey, heading further up the 18,000-foot Mount Sharp, which has always been its ultimate destination.

The robotic rover ran into trouble on Feb. 27 when it was in the process of moving the rock powder from its arm into the analytical instruments. A short circuit caused the machine to stop working and put itself into a safe mode, alerting NASA that there was a problem.

According to NASA, the problem was found to be a transient short in the motor for the drill's hammering action. The drill, with both a rotary and hammering action, sits on the robot's arm.

Although new drilling won't occur for an unspecified period of time, scientists are happy to finally have the newest rock sample, which came from an outcrop called Telegraph Peak on Mount Sharp, delivered to Curiosity's scientific instruments. It was the third time the rover had drilled at the rocky outcrop.

"That precious Telegraph Peak sample had been sitting in the arm, so tantalizingly close, for two weeks," said NASA's Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada. "We are really excited to get it delivered for analysis."


Sharon Gaudin

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