NASA to troubleshoot a dodgy computer on another planet

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Remember the Opportunity rover that NASA sent to Mars way back in 2004? It is still going, despite only having a projected lifespan of three months – but it is getting forgetful in its old age.

opportunity

According to Discovery News the rover has developed a problem with its “non-volatile memory” – or the on board flash memory, so it isn’t saving all of the data it is collecting properly. NASA scientists have taken to calling it “amnesia”.

Apparently the plan appears to be to rewrite the software to ignore the bad sector on the memory and to use the 6 (of 7) memory banks that are working instead.

It sounds like a nightmare situation – as the rover is all the way on Mars, so it isn’t like they can send someone to fix it (just imagine the tension when the “do not power off whilst installing updates” message appears). Worse still, we presume that down at mission control there are hundreds of nerds standing around making suggestions on how best to fix it, as lets face it they probably all think they know a bit about computers.

Good luck NASA.

James O’Malley