NASA reopens investigation of unusual readings on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. — The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is once again examining Mars with its scientific instruments after successfully transitioning out of a precautionary standby mode triggered by an unexpected June 3 rebooting of its computer according to a recent press release issued by NASA.

“Engineers brought the spacecraft out of the standby mode on June 6.  Cameras and other scientific instruments resumed operation June 9.  The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reached Mars in 2006 and has returned more data about the planet than all other Mars missions combined,” Guy Webster, Media Relations for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in an interview on Thursday afternoon.

“The June 3 rebooting resembled a Feb. 23 event on the spacecraft.  Engineers are re-investigating possible root causes for both events.  The new investigation includes reconsidering the likelihood of erroneous voltage readings resulting from cosmic rays or solar particles hitting an electronic component.”

He continued, “There was concern as it was unexpected and it is still undiagnosed. They (NASA) have reopened an investigation as to the root cause.”

ImageThe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a robotic mission.  Launched in 2005, it has been studying the planet since 2006. Some of the equipment the orbiter has in place includes sophisticated cameras and as well as infrared mapping instruments.

“These tools help us to understand Mars better. So far, we have found a good diversity of mineral deposits. In the past, some of those did include water, indicating it might possibly be a habitable environment,” Webster said.  

Last Updated ( Saturday, 20 June 2009 )