LOS ALAMOS, N.M. April 1 – The Mars rover Curiosity has again suffered a serious setback as a result of an unfortunate accident that caused an erroneous command to be sent to the rover from the control center used by the ChemCam team.
During a tour of the ChemCam control facility in downtown Los Alamos, a group of public safety officials and local science teachers were allowed to observe the work of the ChemCam team as they prepared to send a complicated series of commands to Cuiosity that would move the rover into a new position in preparation for their next series of laser shots.
A senior member of the tour inadvertantly leaned against the Curiosity upload control unit and sent the wheel movement commands action list sooner than the ChemCam team had anticipated. The command stream had not been completely loaded into the Curiosity upload control units buffer. The partial list of commands were beamed to Curiosity via the overhead satellite that orbits Mars. Curiosity confirmed receipt of the movement commands after a few minutes.
After 18 minutes, which is the time it takes to send and receive signals from the surface of Mars, the ChemCam team was notified that Curiosity had gone into emergency “Safe Mode” as a result of an error generated by the rover after it had begun moving per the instructions that were relayed to Mars.
Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy apologies to the team for bumping the console, which started the auto upload sequence that sent the incomplete programming to Curiosity.
“I leaned against a panel and must have pushed a couple of the keys,” Torpy is reported to have told Roger Wiens, the Principle Investigator for ChemCam.
Wiens and his team are evaluating the status of the rover to determine just what went wrong and how to get the onboard error detection systems out of Safe Mode. Wiens believes that the early indications are that the rover may have moved up against a large rock on the surface of Mars and may have gotten “stuck” there.
He believes that there is a good chance that the team will be able to reverse the commands that were sent and override the emergency system program that prevents the rover from damaging itself if it does get stuck against an object on the surface of the red planet.
Wiens said that his team plans to send a new set of override commands this evening and would know more by tomorrow morning.
The Los Alamos Daily Post wishes you a Happy April Fool’s Day!