Curiosity Mars rover has been put into “safe mode” after a computer glitch caused by corrupted files.
NASA’s Curiosity robot, which is analyzing rock samples on Mars, is now running from a back-up computer.
NASA scientists are looking into possible causes for the files on the robot’s flash memory being damaged.
The fault means the rover’s work has been put on temporary hold while the back-up computer is reconfigured so it can take full control.
“We’re still early on in the process,” said project manager Richard Cook, in an interview with Space.com.
“We have probably several days, maybe a week of activities to get everything back and reconfigured.”
Curiosity rover has been running on the back-up computer since Thursday.
“We switched computers to get to a standard state from which to begin restoring routine operations,” Richard Cook said.
On Curiosity’s Twitter feed, NASA wrote: “Don’t flip out: I just flipped over to my B-side computer while the team looks into an A-side memory issue.”
The corrupted files may have been caused by stray cosmic rays.
Speaking to Space.com, Richard Cook said: “The hardware that we fly is radiation-tolerant, but there’s a limit to how hardened it can be.
“You can still get high-energy particles that can cause the memory to be corrupted. It certainly is a possibility and that’s what we’re looking into.”
The timing of the glitch would frustrate NASA as Curiosity had just begun analyzing rock samples.
Samples from Mars’ surface had been ingested into the rover’s on-board laboratory last month.
The back-up computer on the rover had previously been used to test software updates before they were installed on the main machine.
Due to capacity limitations on the craft, Curiosity rover launched with only the software needed to land. Once on the planet, new software had to then be installed remotely.