August 11, 2009

Mars orbiter resumes normal operations

The U.S. space agency says its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has resumed full operations, conducting intensive science observations of Mars.

The operations resumed Monday, four days after the spacecraft unexpectedly switched to its backup computer.

Mission engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver said they were able to resume operations of the spacecraft's science instruments Monday at 5:32 p.m. EDT.

Now the engineers say they are trying to identify what caused the spacecraft to spontaneously switch from its A side computer and subsystems to the redundant B side. The Thursday incident, NASA said, bore some similarities to similar swaps by the orbiter during 2007 and 2008.

The spacecraft has been studying Mars since 2006 and has returned more data about the planet than all other past and current missions to Mars combined.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the spacecraft.