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SCI/TECH: Rovers Upgraded and Back on the Move.

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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 Rover software.

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 state.

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 target.

Related ATSNN Articles.
Contact Lost with Spirit Rover
Mars once 'Drenched' in Water

Related Links.
Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Home
Athena Instrument Site

posted on Apr, 16 2004 @ 02:27 PM
It's simply amazing that we can "patch" the software in a tiny robot millions of miles away. NASA is starting to resemble the PC gaming industry in some ways.. PC Games almost always ship unfinished and few weeks later a 'patch' is issued to fix some previous problems... just like our rovers! Kinda cool

posted on Apr, 21 2004 @ 04:15 PM
This is cool. This whole mission may begin to look like a bargain by the time it done. It might also help prove or disprove Shorty's beliefs on this thread.

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