posted on Jan, 27 2004 @ 03:45 PM
PASADENA, Calif. - The malfunctioning of NASA's Spirit rover on Mars apparently was caused by a memory shortage that sent the craft into an endless
cycle of computer reboots, officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Monday.
Like an underpowered home PC, Spirit does not have enough random access memory, or RAM, to juggle the massive number of data files it accumulated
during its flight to Mars.
The rover's on-board computer has 256 megabytes of flash memory, which is like the memory cards in a digital camera. This memory is retained when the
computer shuts down. It also has 128 megabytes of RAM, which is used for temporarily storing data and managing the operations of the computer. RAM is
erased when the comuter shuts down.
Although a home computer would simply run very slowly, the file management problem in Spirit caused it to reboot repeatedly, a process it carried out
more than 130 times before mission controllers regained control of the craft overnight Friday.
To free memory spcae, the JPL team is doing what a home computer user would do - deleting files, beginning with the hundreds accumulated during the
craft's seven-month journey to the Red Planet, said mission manager Jennifer Trosper. Spirit landed on Maars on Jan 3.
"The patient is in rehab and we are nursing her back to health," she said.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Mars, the rover Opportunity continued the process of establishing itself on the Martian surface, unlimbering its mast,
taking some pictures for the folks back home, and orienting itself in its surroundings.
"We couldn't be more happy with what we are seeing at this landing site," said Jim Bell of Cornell University, who developed the high defintion
cameras used by the rovers. "This is a pretty spectacular landing site."
Edit: So you can see, I did mis-read, and the problem rests in the RAM (if you can't figure this out yourself, I don't know what to say...) Sorry
for the mis-information from the start.
[Edited on 27-1-2004 by pyxsul]