NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is expected to remain stationary for at least a couple of days after a shortcircuit has rendered its arm useless for the time being. The engineering problem occurred on February 27 as the rover was preparing to start drilling in the Martian soil.
“We are running tests on the vehicle in its present configuration before we move the arm or drive,” said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This gives us the best opportunity to determine where the short is.”
In the meantime, Curiosity has been parked until engineers manage to figure exactly what was the problem – and how it can be fixed. Unfortunately, it’s not clear is this can be fixed remotely. With its limp arm, Curiosity can’t perform most of its tasks. The now wounded arm has worked five times previously.
“When the fault occurred, the rover was conducting an early step in the transfer of rock powder collected by the drill on the arm to laboratory instruments inside the rover. With the drill bit pointed up and the drill’s percussion mechanism turned on, the rock powder was descending from collection grooves in the bit assembly into a chamber in the mechanism that sieves and portions the sample powder.”