Following close on the heels of NASA's Curiosity rover being moved from safe mode back into active status following an issue with one of its on-board computers, the space agency has now put it into sleep mode due to the threat of a giant solar flare. The solar flare is expected to hit Mars later this week, and the Curiosity rover is in the hot zone.
The solar flare, which is called a coronal mass ejection (CME), was spotted by NASA a couple days ago. Because the CME is heading towards Mars - specifically an area of Mars where the Curiosity is - the agency pushed out the decision to put Curiosity into sleep mode to help protect against possible damage from radiation. Fortunately, the radiation from these events isn't typically harmful to rovers and such.
This isn't the first time the Curiosity rover has been faced with a solar flare, having been blasted with a class M1 ejection back in 2012 during its trip to the Red Planet. Still, the possibility exists that the rover could be damaged, but there's little that can be done except wait-and-see. While Curiosity is being put into sleep mode, the agency's Opportunity rover will still be active.
This setback follows one that was recently settled involving the rover's on-board computer, which became corrupted, forcing it to use the backup secondary computer instead. NASA put the rover in Safe Mode temporarily while it worked on the issue, and has been working on recovering the corrupted computer to work as a backup. This was the robot's first big issue.
[via The Space Reporter]