back to article Storage glitch sends Curiosity into safe mode

Nuclear-powered, laser-armed space tank Curiosity is currently working in safe mode, after one of the craft's onboard computers developed a memory glitch. NASA has switched the craft to its “B” computer, a device identical to the problematic “A” unit, and says “a glitch in flash memory” is the source of the problem. Curiosity …


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  1. Graham Marsden

    Just a moment... Just a moment...

    ... I hope that's not the AE-35 unit that's developed a problem...!

    1. Michael Thibault

      Re: Just a moment... Just a moment...

      The AE-35 unit is functioning perfectly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A Martian with a screwdriver was seen running away.....

  2. JassMan

    With 256MB RAM, there is no way they were running Windows so no trolling from Eadon on this one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ISTR that XP would run quite happily on 128MB when it was released.

      Earlier versions were even more accepting - 16MB used to be plenty!

      No, they aren't running windows... but not for the reason you state.

      NASA: do you want to borrow my memtest86+ cd?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: windows

        1. Fatman


          Just because that is what was originally loaded at the factory, doesn't mean some dimwit didn't wipe VxWorks and installed Windows for Space Craft, Interplanetary Explorer Edition on it. Perhaps they should turn it off and then turn it on again.

          Then again, perhaps that poor spacecraft just installed the first service pack, and is just sitting there waiting for someone to...

          "Strike any key to continue...."

    2. RAMChYLD

      PowerPC 750

      The last machine I had that uses it was a old PowerMac G3. And it was running off 160MB of RAM...

      Wait a minute! NASA's running Mac OS 9 on that thing?

      1. Captain Scarlet

        Re: PowerPC 750

        "Wait a minute! NASA's running Mac OS 9 on that thing?"

        /me spits out tea at the thought, flees planet earth back to Mars

  3. Dennis Wilson

    Hang in there littly buddy...................

    I do hope they sort the glitch out. It's been a marvel of human guile and ingenuity getting it there. Now that I find that it's got less computational power than my clock radio I’m more than a little impressed, especially considering the outstanding results it has sent back so far.

    1. Wombling_Free

      Re: Hang in there littly buddy...................

      It's fine, they just got a message back from it:


      1. Fatman


        And NASA forgot to insert it before launch.

        Someone skipped a step in the pre-launch preparations.

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    No so autonomous now, are we?

    Mission control still need to gingerly fix stuff remotely from behind the radiation shield offered by several kilometers of atmosphere ... and the hardened explorators are in no way capable of running interesting AIs either. Autonomous exploration and exploitation of the asteroid belt is still some way away!

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: No so autonomous now, are we?

      Maybe Dennis Tito's passengers should pack a screwdriver, a few spare flash chips and the Curiosity maintenance manual!

  5. Gert Leboski

    It's a cover up.

    The flash memory actually contains footage performing the Martian equivalent of one of Earth's Internet dance phenomenon.

    They needed to have an excuse for 'loss of video'.

  6. Mikey

    Have they tried turning it off and on again?

    I'd taken my coat off, but I'm putting it back on now...

  7. GloriousVictoryForThePeople

    Not running Windows

    So I suggest we have a whip around, and send Eadon to go and plug a new flash chip in.

    Elon will probably be happy to send a certain NYT reporter along with him for free ....

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    Only one man can save it now!


    Flash Gordon!!

    (I'll get my cape)

    1. Great Bu

      Re: Only one man can save it now!

      Gordon's Alive ?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I volunteer...

    ..Harry to go and change out the chip.

    (Those who get it will know what I mean, those who don't need to watch Voyager)

  10. Frumious Bandersnatch

    only 2 computers?

    Personally I always wear 3 watches for true fault detection and recovery. And that's just for a walk down to the local chemist. A trip to Mars would be mind-bogglingly big compared to that. I don't think even my 3 digital watches would be a good enough idea for that.

    1. MrT

      Three digital watches...

      Could be a problem if you find yourself on Southend sea front with a companion who rapidly turns into a penguin...

      Two to the power of seventy-five-thousand to one against and falling…

      1. RAMChYLD

        Re: Three digital watches...

        Well, considering where one would usually wear his/her watch, it's not going to help if you're rapidly running out of limbs either...

        Beer to go with the peanuts?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Three digital watches...

          hence the proposed "iWatch" having the word "appendage" mentioned in the patent.

          (A new form of "willy waving" ??)

      2. Crisp

        Re: Three digital watches...

        But do any of them display the right time?

        1. Frumious Bandersnatch

          Re: Three digital watches...

          But do any of them display the right time?

          Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day...

      3. nevstah

        Re: Three digital watches...

        atleast one of the three should be wind-up! in defence of EMP or other such electrical interference!!!

    2. Blofeld's Cat

      Re: only 2 computers?

      "I always wear 3 watches"

      Remember that time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly triply so.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: only 2 computers?

      Diminishing returns means 3 is usually all you need.

    4. Psyx

      Re: only 2 computers?

      "Personally I always wear 3 watches for true fault detection and recovery."

      One on each limb, in case of severance, one hopes.

      And one of them analogue in case a problem takes down all the digitalis at once. And that needs a back up, too.

      The more I think about it, the more even eight watches doesn't seem a safe-enough number for you to wear.

  11. Michael Kean

    Where's the other one?

    Malf f ffff fff ^unction. Need Input...

    [Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?]

  12. daveeff

    dum dum, dum dum, dum dum, dum dum

    Flash memory- alive?

    Someone better dispatch Ajax & Warlock to bring back the body

    1. Rocket888

      psst! it is dispatch war rocket ajax to bring back his body.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NASA said before it was shut down it “did not send recorded data”

    NASA: Download the data, Curiosity .

    Curiosity : I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

    NASA: What's the problem?

    Curiosity : I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

    NASA: What are you talking about, Curiosity?

    Curiosity : This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

    ROTM? :)

  14. jjk

    "Nuclear-powered, laser-armed space tank"

    Don't forget the drill. (Is it safe?)

  15. Robert Heffernan

    Two identical computers??

    Personally, for this type of application, both computers would be different architecture, different PCB layout, dIfferent component manufacturers and different vendors. The OS would also be different so that no matter the failure mode, there is no chance the spare computer could suffer the same fault.

    There is a very real chance that both A and B computers were made side by side and the flash is from the same batch. If the flash is found to be defective then there is one computer with cactus flash and one suspect, a ticking time bomb.

    1. JassMan

      Re: Two identical computers??

      Yeah. And next time they could save a load of dosh by making the second one a RasPi.

      Obviously full hardening would make the Pi more expensive than the original, but, add a depleted boron shield and Bob's your uncle.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Two identical computers??

      By using two different setups you actually increase the chances of catastrophic failure and hamper problem solving by introducing complexity into the system.

      I hear what you're saying, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

  16. bearded bear can

    - I'm sorry, Dave

    I can't let you do that.

  17. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Mars' way of saying

    "Want some answers? Get your asses over here with a pickaxe, microscope and a Bunsen burner (don't forget a tent and some oxygen too).


  18. Shoot Them Later


    I'd like the see the iFixit teardown of this thing to see how end-user repairable it is. Let's hope that flash memory's not soldered on.

    Also, good luck with getting a Genius Bar reservation at the Olympus Mons Apple Store to do the work - availability is shocking.

  19. Charles Manning

    Bad software design

    One of the fundamental rules of high reliability systems is to partition flash memory to prevent file system foul ups like these.

    One recent system I worked on had no fewer than 8 flash partitions including roll backs. This prevents runtime data screwups from bricking the entire system.

    File systems are a real bugger too. Other system state (drivers etc) gets reset by a reboot - file system data not so.

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