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"COMPUTER TROUBLE ON MARS
A mysterious problem with the space sond Phoenix has caused the loss of important scientific data.
Tuesday the computer systems in NASA's Mars sond Phoenix got serious trouble. A large amount of internal data filled the sond's memory, causing some important scientific data to get lost.
- Not much information has come out at this point. But we know that there has been produced more information about internal circumstances in the sond than usual. It really has nothing to do with scientific tasks, but the system was overloaded, says space expert Erik Tandberg at Norsk Romsenter (Norwegian Space Center).
According to Tandberg information is lost, because it couldn't be transmittid as a result of the computer problems.
- The system couldn't send the planned information home, so these datas are lost. The images can be taken again, but the other information is gone, he says.
At this point it is not known what caused the overload. So NASA can't say anything more about what will be done to solve the problem or if it will occur again.
The well known norwegian space expert can only speculate about why Phoenix' computer system failed.
- These things happen. It could be a programming error, or just some glitch. Sometimes problems occur in computer systems, without any kind of clear explanation, says Tandberg.
The loss of information is supposedly not critical, but it is said that NASA is nervous about the rest of the mission. The transmission of the information has to go as planned.
- It takes 15 minutes to send information from Mars to earth, explains Tandberg."
None of that science data was high-priority data. Almost all was imaging that can be retaken, with the exception of images taken of a surface that Phoenix's arm dug into after the images were taken.
Meanwhile, the spacecraft team at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is preparing a software patch to send to Phoenix in a few days so scientific data can again be saved onboard overnight when needed. Because of a large amount a duplicative file-maintenance data generated by the spacecraft Tuesday, the team is taking the precaution of not storing science data in Phoenix's flash memory, and instead downlinking it at the end of every day, until the conditions that produced those duplicative data files are corrected.