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Sci-Tech

NASA Mars rover Curiosity glitches again, switches 'brains'

NASA's only working Mars rover is having some computer problems.

Curiosity snapped this charming selfie of its "head" in early 2018.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

It can be hard enough to troubleshoot a computer that's right in front of you. NASA has to manage the process on another planet as the Curiosity rover continues to experience glitches on Mars. The latest problem prompted the rover team to switch computers entirely.

NASA issued an update on Tuesday saying Curiosity's Side-A computer experienced a reset on March 6, triggering the rover's safe mode. This is the second time the computer unexpectedly reset in the last three weeks. NASA called the February incident a "hiccup during boot-up." The agency says the resets were related to the computer's memory.

Curiosity got back to science operations, but the new issue prompted NASA to switch the rover over to its Side-B computer, which it had been using for most of the mission. A memory glitch in late 2018 caused NASA to switch the rover's "brains" from Side-B to Side-A. Now we're back to Side-B.

The rover team reformatted the Side-B computer to isolate bad memory areas. NASA hopes this will cure its 2018 issues. Curiosity is now out of safe mode once again and is ready to resume science operations as soon as Wednesday.

Curiosity has survived technical snafus before and is the only remaining rover still functioning on Mars. NASA declared an end to the Opportunity rover mission in February, months after a dust storm blotted out its solar panels. 

NASA intends to send a companion to the Red Planet with the planned launch of the Mars 2020 rover, but we're all watching Curiosity's adventures and misadventures with an eagle eye until the next rover arrives.