Why did Curiosity remain “frozen” on Mars for several hours?


Why did Curiosity remain “frozen” on Mars for several hours?

– January 24, 2020 – Science

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The Martian rover Curiosity froze in place, interrupting all its activities. NASA has managed to solve the problem. The space agency explains that when the device loses its sense of orientation, it stops moving to avoid any incident.

Curiosity momentarily remained “frozen” in place. The rover’s activities have been halted, NASA announced on its blog dedicated to Martian missions on January 20, 2020. However, the agency did not lose contact with his device and used the data he sent to try to resolve the problem. The next day, Curiosity was once again ready to resume its mission. What’s happened? Why did the rover get stuck?

“In the middle of its latest round of activities, Curiosity lost its [sense of] direction,” the space agency says. In other words, the rover seemed to have forgotten the information that allows him to position himself. “So Curiosity stopped moving, remaining frozen in place until it could regain knowledge of its direction,” says NASA.

Why did Curiosity remain “frozen” on Mars for several hours?

A model of the Curiosity rover in Lego // Source: Flickr/CC/Stephen Pakbaz (cropped photo)

NASA engineers worked on a plan to send Curiosity data that helped it regain its sense of direction. “We want Curiosity to regain its ability to do its security checks, and we also want to know what we can do to avoid such a problem in the future,” the space agency said in its blog post summarizing the incident.

  • Read: What are the differences between Curiosity and Mars 2020, the two Martian rovers?

Why can Curiosity completely “freeze” its activities?

In order to function properly and accomplish its mission, Curiosity needs to know precisely what its position is in its Martian environment. He must also know the position of each of his instruments at all times. All these elements are analysed before starting the engine. If security checks are inconclusive, Curiosity stops moving to prevent an incident from occurring. That’s what seems to have happened.

Curiosity has been operational on Mars since August 2012. The rover is at its 2,654th ground (the name given to the days on Mars). During its mission, it travelled 21.68 kilometres on the planet’s surface. His observations have led to important discoveries on the Red Planet, such as evidence of an ancient salt lake.