Mars Orbiter Back at Work After Glitch

PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 21 (UPI) — A NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars has resumed its study of the red planet after a computer glitch temporarily interrupted its mission, engineers at NASA said.

On Sept. 15, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter put itself into precautionary “safe mode,” a kind of spacecraft “sleep state,” after spontaneously rebooting its computer for unknown reasons, reported Monday.

It was the fifth time in two years the spacecraft had experienced computer problems. In August 2009 it went into a safe-mode snooze that lasted until December of that year.

Unexpected reboots put the Mars orbiter into safe mode a total of four times in 2009, the space agency said.

But as in this latest episode, the spacecraft always came back to life, this time working again after three days.

The $420 million orbiter was launched in August 2005 to perform a comprehensive survey of the red planet’s surface and atmosphere.

The craft completed the primary science phase of its mission in November 2008 but continues to observe Mars both for science and to support future landing missions, NASA officials said.

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