A mass amount of system resets to NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover’s flash memory.
The reformat will help prevent the system from losing memory and will wipe out the old and damaged cells within the memory. The reformat will take place next month and several preparations have already been made, including backing up and sending data that is stored in the memory to Earth.
“Worn-out cells in the flash memory are the leading suspect in causing these resets,” said John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, project manager for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project. “The flash reformatting is a low-risk process, as critical sequences and flight software are stored elsewhere in other non-volatile memory on the rover.”
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NASA also plans to slow down the data transfer rate in order to ensure that the rover is able to handle the reboot without losing any memory.
The rover is currently 200 million kilometers from Earth, and it takes radio signals 11.2 minutes to reach the rover from Earth. It will take the same amount of time for the signals to travel to Earth from the rover.
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NASA hopes that the reboot will put an end to the resets and problems that the rover is currently experiencing and allow it to function properly. Once the reboot is complete, the rover will continue to travel around Mars, taking photos and collecting samples that will be sent back to Earth.
The rover has lasted longer than NASA expected. It was designed to stay powered for just three months, but the winds on Mars help clean the solar panels and allow it to charge and stay powered. The rover has been collecting photos and samples from Mars for ten years.