It can be a challenge to troubleshoot a computer when it’s sitting on the desk in front of you. Trying to troubleshoot a computer system that is on another planet is infinitely more difficult. This is exactly what NASA JPL engineers are working on with a problem in one of the computers on the Curiosity Rover on Mars.
The rover has had issues storing some key science and engineering data going back to September 15. To diagnose the issue with the active computer, NASA will be changing the rover to its backup computer. The two computers are called Side-A and Side-B, the rover has been using the Side-B computer.
Engineers want to change the rover to the Side-A computer. This is a risk because the rover had an issue with hardware and software on Side-A over 500 days ago that left the rover unresponsive and drained its battery. The team was able to switch to the Side-B computer at that time.
Engineers have been able to diagnose and quarantine the part of the Side-A computer memory that caused that glitch and say that the computer can support the mission. JPL says that it is confident it can get full operations for the rover back, but it’s not sure how at this time.
The team has spent the last week checking the Side-A computer and preparing it for the swap. The missions planned can be run permanently on Side-A if needed, but the team wants to fix the Side-B computer having an issue currently and move back to it due to the larger memory size.