Mars Rover memory glitch, are Aliens to blame?
The Mars Curiosity rover had to suspend operations last week after a glitch in its computer memory put it into non-operational ‘safe mode’. However, after switching over to its ‘B-side’ backup computer, the rover has slowly been brought back to active status and is now on the road to recovery.
In what is sure to get some conspiracy theorists talking, Curiosity was right in the middle of analyzing powder from a rock it drilled into a couple of weeks ago, when the computer glitch happened.
So just what caused the memory drain ? NASA are still unsure.
Engineers are still trying to determine the source of the corrupted files, but it could actually be the fault of cosmic rays or maybe even ET scanning the rover out of curiosity.
High-energy particles are constantly bombarding all the planets, and while Earth’s magnetic field protects us from most of them, the particles can still cause secondary showers of charged particles that can inflict damage on our computers. Back in 1996, IBM apparently estimated that an average desktop computer could expect one error per month per 256 megabytes of memory. A few years ago, Intel patented the concept of building cosmic ray detectors into every computer chip.
Though Curiosity had plenty of shielding on its interplanetary journey, on the surface of Mars, it’s not as well-protected. The problem happens when a high-energy particle streams into a computer chip, either creating a 0 or 1 where there isn’t one, or switching an existing bit of memory to a different state. This is called a soft error.