BY | March 7, 2013

For many people it may be worrying, but solar flares today has forced NASA to shuts down Mars Rover Curiosity temporarily

NASA has been forced to put its Mars rover the Curiosity into sleep mode due to an upcoming solar burst to the Mars. In a few days after stopping its operations for solving some computer bugs, NASA is now to again shut down the rover. The solar flare, which is a huge coronal mass ejection (CME), is to launch at the Mars this weekend. The Curiosity will be dormant until then; otherwise its computer system will completely fail.

The move to shut down the Curiosity is meant to protect the vehicle’s computer equipment. It may face critical harms in effect of the barrage of radiation that is to stem from the solar flare. “We’re being more careful,” said Richard Cook, project manager of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that handles the $2.5 billion project. Even while, NASA has made it clear that it will not stop operations of its Opportunity rover and a couple of NASA orbiters as part of solar flare.

Coronal Mass Ejection (CME)
As per the American space agency, the nearing coronal mass ejection (SME) will have a very intense power. The burst may eject a massive jet of superheated gas towards Mars at a speed of 2 million mph. Actually, it is not to seriously cause problems for spacecrafts and rovers. However, NASA wants to take no chance and so that it has stopped functioning of the Mars rover vehicle.

“In 2003, an intense solar flare knocked out the radiation detector on the Odyssey orbiter. During Curiosity’s trip to Mars in August 2012, the rover encountered a similar barrage of particles a CME sent out an M1 class solar flare that nailed the NASA’s Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft, the Spitzer space telescope, and the rover,” says The Space Reporter.

Of course, NASA might have taken the step to ensure security and safety for the hugely costlier rover. In fact, a strong solar flare can contain nearly a billion tons of plasma that will move at up to a million miles per hour. Apart from barraging planets with charged particles, it would lead things to big atmospheric losses for planets like the Mars that are unprotected by the global magnetic field, the agency said.

Mars Rover Computer Bugs
Earlier this month, NASA put science operations of the rover inactivated to tackle a computer programming bug, possibly caused by radiation. The space vehicle experienced a range of computer bugs, which forced “NASA engineers to activate a back-up system that allowed them to make the necessary changes to get the rover rolling again,” Space Reporter says referring to some reliable sources.

The programming issue was first reported late February when its A-side computer started to show signs of a tarnished memory location. It might have been caused by the exposure to radiation. In fear of losing important data, NASA officials shut it down partly and solved the issue. But, now it has again been shut down for fighting the solar flare that is a natural calamity.

“I don’t expect there to be any long-term impact,” said Mr. Richard Cook told to Reuters. But “it’s probably too early to tell.”  Yes, it is too early to say what an impact these two shutdowns would bring to the Mars mission. Anyway, let us hope that it would soon come out of the solar flare crisis also and manage to provide more information, videos and images from the Mars, which is doubted to have some life on it.

The Curiosity rover is a massive US$2.5 billion robotic project to the Mars to seek the presence of life there. NASA scientists have been in the middle of analyzing the first samples of various materials the rover drilled out from the interior of the planet. It has also been sending good quality images and videos of the various surfaces of the Red Planet.

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