NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Rover Curiosity rover has experienced a short circuit on the surface of the red (or blue) planet.
The space agency has halted work with the robot until it can figure out what went wrong.
The rover is “expected to remain stationary for several days of engineering analysis following an onboard fault-protection action” NASA said.
“Telemetry received from the rover indicated that a transient short circuit occurred and the vehicle followed its programmed response, stopping the arm activity underway at the time of the irregularity in the electric current.”
Fortunately — as evidenced by the robot’s chipper tone on Twitter — the short circuit will not mean that the rover itself will face major problems. But it is serious - it means that some mechanisms will have to be carefully managed to avoid further shorts.
“A transient short in some systems on the rover would have little effect on rover operations. In others, it could prompt the rover team to restrict use of a mechanism.
“When the fault occurred, the rover was conducting an early step in the transfer of rock powder collected by the drill on the arm to laboratory instruments inside the rover.
“With the drill bit pointed up and the drill's percussion mechanism turned on, the rock powder was descending from collection grooves in the bit assembly into a chamber in the mechanism that sieves and portions the sample powder. The sample powder is from a rock target called “Telegraph Peak." The same transfer process was completed smoothly with samples from five previous drilling targets in 2013 and 2014.”
The Curiosity rover is investigating the chance that life once existed on Mars.