posted on Apr, 15 2004 @ 12:04 PM
NASA's Opportunity Rover has started operating with its new Flight
Software today. Signalling the successful completion of almost a week of upgrades to the two Mars Rovers.
The flight software controls all aspects of the Rovers life on Mars. It took four days to upload and install the update for each Rover. This update is
designed to get the maximum possible useage out of the Rovers in their remaining operational period. This update focused on three major aspects of the
The first is a modification to the Rovers autonomous navigation software. This is
the software that allows Mission controllers to designate a target and allow the Rovers to find the best route automatically. This update gives the
Rovers even more control of the route-selection. Where before if a Rover could not find an obvious best route it would wait for human input, it can
now turn in place and search more actively for the best path.
The second part of the flight software update was to install more 'safety nets' for the Rovers, in the event that either suffer from a problem
similar to the one Spirit encountered a few weeks into its mission. Software and procedures have already been changed to avoid the exact problem with
the Flash Memory. But in the event of any similar errors in the future, this update will allow the Rovers to automatically recover to a more stable
The third part of the update was primarily for Opportunity. A heater on Opportunitys arm is stuck in the 'on' position and is continually draining
power. This update introduces a 'deep sleep' state, that allows the Rover to stop the batteries from powering the heater switch. Removing the drain
from the batteries. This option is installed on Spirit just in case, but is not expected to be used.
The mission so far has been a rousing success for NASA, JPL and the Rover/Instrument Design Teams. Spirit has been on Mars for 101 Sols and
Opportunity for 80. The prerequisite lifetime and target for Mission success was 90 Sols each. Both Rovers look like going a long way past that
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