March 12, 2009

NASA reboots the Mars Odyssey orbiter

The U.S. space agency's Mars Odyssey orbiter's computer has been rebooted to clear memory flaws amassed in more than five years since its last reboot.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the procedure also restored Odyssey's onboard set of backup systems, called the spacecraft's B side, allowing its use in the future when necessary.

For nearly two years, we have not known for certain whether the backup systems would be usable, so this successful reboot has allowed us to ascertain their health and availability for future use, said Odyssey Project Manager Philip Varghese from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001 and has never switched from its primary set of components, the A side, to the backup set, which includes an identical computer processor, navigation sensors, relay radio and other components.

In March 2006, the B-side spare of a component for managing the distribution of power became inoperable, NASA said, but an analysis by engineers identified a possibility that rebooting Odyssey might restore the component. That analysis proved correct.