NASA’s Curiosity rover suffers glitch on Mars, freezes up

This Hazcam image shows Curiosity’s arm extended out to perform an APXS analysis of the bedrock. Curiosity has to know the exact angle of every joint to move safely. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Can a Mars rover have an existential crisis? NASA’s Curiosity rover was wondering just exactly what its place is on Mars after experiencing a technical glitch.

“Partway through its last set of activities, Curiosity lost its orientation,” wrote Curiosity team member Dawn Sumner, a planetary geologist at University of California, Davis, in a mission update this week.

The rover stores in memory its body attitude and joint orientation. This includes details of the local landscape, the location of its robotic arm and the directions its instruments are pointing. It’s all the data that helps the rover know exactly where it is on Mars and how to move about safely.

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