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The Mission




Mission: Mars Science Lab
Rocket: Atlas 5 (AV-028)
Launch: Nov. 26, 2011 @ 10:02am EST (1502 GMT)
Landing: Aug. 6, 2012 @ 1:32am EDT (0532 GMT)
Site: Base of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater

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Curiosity driving again after bungled software upgrade
BY STEPHEN CLARK
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: November 13, 2013


NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is hitting the road again Thursday, setting its sights on arriving at the base of a 3.4-mile-high Martian mountain next spring after recovering from a software fault that halted science observations for nearly a week.


Artist's concept of the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
 
Officials expected the nuclear-powered robot to begin moving early Thursday, departing a rocky outcrop dubbed Cooperstown to head for another intermediate destination on the rover's cross-country trek to Mount Sharp, a towering peak in the middle of Gale Crater, the impact basin selected for Curiosity's landing in August 2012.

Thursday's drive is the first since Curiosity went into safe mode Nov. 7 when the rover's computer froze up as ground controllers tried to switch over to new upgraded software.

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California radioed the fresh software to the rover last week when it was parked at the Cooperstown outcrop.

But there was a discrepancy between a data file and a catalog file inside the rover's computer. Running on the new R11 software, Curiosity's catalog file, which functions like a folder on a personal computer, showed one particular piece of data was still written in the computer's memory, according to Jim Erickson, Curiosity's project manager at JPL.

When the rover's computer tried to access the data, it was not there. The rover's older R10 software handled data differently.

"[The rover] basically said, 'OK, I'm trying to pull this one data product to send it because it says it's ready, but since it's an old software-generated product, it had the file cleared out but not the catalog pointing to the file,'" Erickson said. "So R11 believed the product was there, opened up that memory space, and said, 'Oh, this doesn't look right at all. We obviously have some kind of a memory corruption,' and asked for a reset."

The rover did a warm reset, a less invasive type of reboot than a cold reset.

"It is sort of like the difference between turning your computer off and unplugging it and telling the Mac OS to just do a reset," Erickson said.

Erickson said the rover will stay on the old software for now while engineers amend the R11 software. Officials aim to uplink the new R11 version to the rover in early December.

"Unfortunately, the handover didn't work well," Erickson said. "It was a transition problem. We can easily fix this now that we know what the issue is by clearing out the ready-to-send catalog before we switch to R11."

The R11 software is the 11th incarnation of software developed for the rover since the program began. It is the third software upgrade to be uplinked to Curiosity since landing and expands the rover's autonomy and extends capabilities for using the robot arm while parked on slopes, an improvement scientists expect will come in handy once the rover arrives at Mount Sharp, according to a NASA press release.

Ground teams restored the rover to normal operations Sunday, according to a NASA press release.

Curiosity's departure from the Cooperstown outcrop Thursday begins the next phase of the rover's journey to Mount Sharp.

The rover spent much of the first year of its mission on Mars investigating a region named Yellowknife Bay. Believed to be part of an ancient river system, Yellowknife Bay once held all the ingredients required to support microbial life, according to data collected by Curiosity's soil-analyzing instruments.

Mount Sharp may hold even stronger clues of a former habitable environment on Mars, and layered terrain in the mountain's foothills may contain organic signatures of ancient life.

Erickson said Curiosity should reach the edge of Mount Sharp some time between May and July 2014.

Cooperstown was the second of four "waypoints" identified on the route to Mount Sharp. Officials selected the waypoints from orbital imagery, providing opportunities to do science on the way to the rover's next big destination.

According to Erickson, Curiosity has completed more than one-third of its approximately 5.6-mile drive to Mount Sharp. The rover's next waypoint should be reached by January.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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VIDEO: THE MARS SCIENCE LAB FULL LAUNCH EXPERIENCE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ATLAS 5 ROCKET LAUNCHES MARS SCIENCE LAB PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ONBOARD CAMERA VIEW OF NOSE CONE JETTISON PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ONBOARD CAMERA VIEW OF THE STAGING EVENT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ONBOARD VIEW OF ROCKET RELEASING MSL PLAY
VIDEO: LAUNCH DECLARED A SUCCESS PLAY

VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: OUR VIEW OF LIFTOFF PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: VAB ROOF PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: PATRICK AFB PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: SOUTH OF THE PAD PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: THE BEACH TRACKER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: SHUTTLE PAD CAMERA PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: SHUTTLE WATER TOWER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: TRACKER WEST OF THE PAD PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: CLOSE-UP ON UMBILICALS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: COMPLEX 41 VIF PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAYS: THE PRESS SITE PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH PROJECT MANAGER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: NARRATED PREVIEW OF ATLAS 5 ASCENT PROFILE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ROCKET'S LAUNCH CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: MSL'S LAUNCH CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: SPACECRAFT CLEANROOM TOUR PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: ATLAS ROCKET ROLLS OUT TO LAUNCH PAD PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: TIME-LAPSE VIEWS OF ROCKET ROLLOUT PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: THE PRE-LAUNCH NEWS CONFERENCE PLAY
VIDEO: CURIOSITY ROVER SCIENCE BRIEFING PLAY
VIDEO: LOOKING FOR LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE PLAY
VIDEO: WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE RED PLANET PLAY
VIDEO: ROBOTICS AND HUMANS TO MARS TOGETHER PLAY

VIDEO: PREVIEW OF ENTRY, DESCENT AND LANDING PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: PREVIEW OF CURIOSITY ROVER EXPLORING MARS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: A FLYOVER OF THE GALE CRATER LANDING SITE PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: NUCLEAR GENERATOR HOISTED TO ROVER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: MARS SCIENCE LAB MOUNTED ATOP ATLAS 5 PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: MOVING MSL TO ATLAS ROCKET HANGAR PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: SPACECRAFT PLACED ABOARD TRANSPORTER PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: APPLYING MISSION LOGOS ON THE FAIRING PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: MSL ENCAPSULATED IN ROCKET'S NOSE CONE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: FINAL LOOK AT SPACECRAFT BEFORE SHROUDING PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: HEAT SHIELD INSTALLED ONTO SPACECRAFT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: BEAUTY SHOTS OF SPACECRAFT PACKED UP PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ATTACHING THE RING-LIKE CRUISE STAGE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: PARACHUTE-EQUIPPED BACKSHELL INSTALLED PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: SKYCRANE AND CURIOSITY MATED TOGETHER PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: TWO-HALVES OF ROCKET NOSE CONE ARRIVES PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CENTAUR UPPER STAGE HOISTED ATOP ATLAS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: FINAL SOLID ROCKET BOOSTER ATTACHED PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: FIRST OF FOUR SOLID BOOSTERS MOUNTED PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: FIRST STAGE ERECTED ON MOBILE LAUNCHER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: STAGES DRIVEN FROM HARBOR TO THE ASOC PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ROCKET ARRIVES ABOARD SEA-GOING VESSEL PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: STOWING ROVER'S INSTRUMENTED ROBOT ARM PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: DEPLOYING CURIOSITY'S SIX WHEELS ON EARTH PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: MMRTG PUT BACK INTO STORAGE AT SPACEPORT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: NUCLEAR GENERATOR FIT-CHECK ON THE ROVER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ROVER'S NUCLEAR POWER SOURCE ARRIVES PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: SPIN-TESTING THE RING-LIKE CRUISE STAGE PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: UNCOVERING CURIOSITY ROVER IN CLEANROOM PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: UNVEILING THE ROCKET-POWERED SKYCRANE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: UNBOXING THE ROVER FROM SHIPPING CRATE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ROVER HAULED FROM RUNWAY TO PHSF FACILITY PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: MARS ROVER ARRIVES AT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: DESCENT WEIGHTS INSTALLED ON BACKSHELL PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: SOLAR ARRAY PANELS ATTACHED TO CRUISE RING PLAY | HI-DEF
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