NASA's most powerful eye in the sky above Mars has bounced back from a recent computer glitch and resumed full duties observing the Red Planet. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recovered from its March 9 glitch on March 13, mission managers said. "The spacecraft is healthy, in communication and fully powered," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Manager Dan Johnston of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., in a statement. "We have stepped up the communication data rate, and we plan to have the spacecraft back to full operations within a few days."
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, went into standby mode on March 9 after unexpectedly undergoing a computer swap from one main computer to a backup. The spacecraft placed itself into a hibernation-like "safe mode" as a precautionary measure. "Entry into safe mode is the prescribed response by a spacecraft when it detects conditions outside the range of normal expectations," NASA officials explained in a statement. "Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has experienced unplanned computer swaps triggering safe-mode entry four times previously, most recently in November 2011. The root cause of the previous events has not been determined. The spacecraft has also experienced safe-mode entries that have not involved computer swaps." [Latest Photos from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter]
NASA launched the MRO mission to Mars in 2005, and the spacecraft entered orbit around Mars a year later. Since its 2006 arrival, MRO's mission has been extended three times, most recently in 2012.
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