The NASA Mars rover, Opportunity, will be facing an overhaul. Its memory will be reformatted in hopes that recurring errors will be corrected. These errors have interrupted work efforts of the long-running rover for a day or two at a time over the last month. The 10 year old robot has surpassed its original lifespan and has reset over twelve times because of a worn-out flash memory that, NASA states, is probably trying to store data.
Flash memory can degrade from repeated use and it is possible that Opportunity is trying to use its worn-out memory.
John Callas who is the project manager for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project stated, “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 should be able to identify and render the bad flash memory cells inoperative by reformatting the memory. This should stop the numerous resets that have been occurring over the last month. Any useful data that is still on Opportunity will be downloaded before the reformatting. Also, the rover will correspond with NASA at a data rate that is slower so that transmission reliability is not compromised.
This will be the first memory reformat for Opportunity. At the present it is approximately125 million miles from NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This isn’t the first Mars rover to undertake a reformat. Back in 2009, NASA’s Spirit rover underwent a memory reformat back, five years after landing. That unit has been replaced by Opportunity. The reformatting of this unit is planned for October.
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[Image via: en.wikipedia]