April 27, 2009

Spirit problems still baffle scientists

U.S. space agency scientists say they have not yet solved the mysterious cause of several glitches in the Mars exploration rover Spirit.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineers remotely drove Spirit Thursday for the first time since April 8 while investigating bouts of amnesia and other unusual behavior exhibited by the rover this month.

Spirit has already operated more than 20 times longer than its original prime mission on Mars.

Three times during the past two weeks, Spirit has failed to record data from a day's activity period into non-volatile flash memory -- a type of computer memory where information is preserved even when power is off.

We expect we will see more of the amnesia events, and we want to learn more about them when we do, said JPL's Sharon Laubach.

The team is also investigating two other types of problems Spirit has experienced recently -- failing to wake up for three consecutive communication sessions about two weeks ago and rebooting its computer on April 11, 12 and 18. Engineers have not found any causal links among those events.