If Curiosity’s problem with its A-side computer due to high energy cosmic radiation weren’t bad enough, now the Sun is taking aim at the rover.

Curiosity Solar Blast

I mean really.  First there was the 8.5 month trip through the hazards of the solar system where micro-meteors and dust abound.  Then there was the 7 minutes of terror (or hell if you were on of the mission designers).  A few glitches in the beginning, and now this.  Can’t the Universe just get along?

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections have had an impact on other Mars missions.  In 2003, an intense solar flare knocked out the radiation detector on the Odyssey orbiter.  Which is kind of ironic when you think about it.

However, not to fear.  Curiosity is bracing for the bad space weather headed toward it while Opportunity, the little rover that could, and both space orbiters will continue normal operations.

Speaking of bad weather.  It is a new moon weekend for me.  I hope the weather clears up today so that I can get some good images of PANSTARRS early in the evening.  Hopefully, you will make time on the 12th to go out and look at the Moon/comet conjunction.  Take pictures with whatever you have and send me a copy.  I would love to see how it goes.

Maybe my fellow blogger over at Alien Shores will consider making this his photo challenge of the week!

Cosmic Rays Kill Curiosity!

Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover isn’t really dead.  At least not yet.

Since last Wednesday, Curiosity has not transmitted data back to Earth.  Also, a planned switch into its daily sleep mode did not occur as planned.

Engineers have determined that there is a problem with the rover’s “A-side” computer memory.  This past Thursday, operators switched operation to the backup “B-side” computer which placed Curiosity into a low-power “safe mode” state.

Safe modes are designed to protect spacecraft when a malfunction happens to prevent damage, destruction or mayhem from occurring.  So currently, everything on Curiosity is shut down except the minimal systems to keep it “alive” and able to respond to commands from Earth.

Engineers are gradually bringing systems on-line one at a time using the B-side computer.  Full operations could be restored by this weekend.  Once full system capabilities are restored, a triage of Then the process of understanding more about what happened to the A-side computer begins.

A front-running theory of the malfunction is that the computer memory was corrupted when it was struck by a cosmic ray. Cosmic rays are very high-energy particles, mainly originating outside the Solar System.

Back in the mid-90s, IBM estimated that cosmic rays would cause one error per month for every 256MB of RAM in a computer on Earth.  Unfortunately, Mars doesn’t have the benefit of our wonderfully protective atmosphere and magnetic field, leaving poor Curiosity exposed to the universally problem maker – cosmic ray.  Curiosity’s computers are “hardened” to withstand radiation, but  cosmic rays can sometimes still get through.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +.  If you need help with any patent, trademark, or copyright issue, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.



Today is the Day.

At 10:31PDT today, the Mars Curiosity rover will hopefully land safely and begin its mission.  Good luck to everyone at NASA and JPL.  The last commands from mission control were sent today.  “We sent a command to the spacecraft to start its onboard program to execute the final approach, entry, descent and landing,” Vasavada told the Los Angeles Times in an interview late Friday. “We literally could do nothing more, and the spacecraft will land itself.”

An official shot of the Curiosity rover at JPL.

My photo taken during the annual JPL open house.

You can find out more about the mission here.  For some spectacular space viewing check out NASA’s eyes web site where you can view everything NASA and the world are doing in space, or visit our closest star.  It is a really phenomenal site.

If you have a photograph, recording, video or art work and need help to protect your idea, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –