Like any computer on Earth, long-duration space robots‘ memories sometimes need to be reformatted. This is certainly the case for NASA’s Mars exploration rover Opportunity that has had more than its fair share of computer glitches recently. So now, NASA has decided to reformat Opportunity’s memory from Earth.
Mars rover Opportunity (also known as MER-B – (Mars Exploration Rover – B) as well as MER-1) was launched from the Earth on July 7, 2003. It landed on Mars on January 25, 2004. And since then, the rover is on the red planet and has been serving more than 10 years.
But since last month, all on a sudden, Opportunity started suffering from errors after errors, for which its daily works and frequency were being interrupted. So, the rover reset itself over a dozen times. But still problems are occurring. So NASA has decided to download all the “useful” data remaining on Opportunity and after that, the agency will reformat Opportunity’s memory from Earth.
John Callas, project manager for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project, said in a statement, “The flash reformatting is a low-risk process, as critical sequences and flight software are stored elsewhere in other non-volatile memory on the rover.”
NASA has mentioned that by reformatting the rover’s memory, it’ll be able to identify and disable use of the bad flash memory cells. Besides, it won’t need to reset itself in the foreseeable future.
Note that, this will be the first memory reformat for Opportunity, which is currently about 125 million miles from NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA is supposed to reformat Opportunity’s memory next month. The rover will communicate with NASA at a slower data rate during the formatting process in order to improve reliability of the transmission.