NASA’s Mars rover gets ready to have its ‘memory wiped’

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NASA’s Mars rover team has decided to reformat Opportunity’s flash memory, it has been reported.

An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover’s flash memory.

The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover’s planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, said that worn-out cells in the flash memory are the leading suspect in causing these resets and reformatting would be a low-risk process, as critical sequences and flight software are stored in other non-volatile memory on the rover.

Preparations for the process include, downloading to Earth all useful data remaining in the flash memory and switching the rover to an operating mode that does not use flash memory. Also, the team has restructured rover’s communication sessions to use a slower data rate, which might add resilience in case of a reset during the preparations.

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