Curious Troubles

One of the latest images of 17 November from Curiosity. Taken with the left NavCam.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One of the latest images of 17 November from Curiosity. Taken with the left NavCam. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The MSL rover Curiosity has suspended scientific operations for a few days to take a look at an electrical issue detected on 17 Nov.

A voltage drop of about 7 volts (~ 11 to ~ 4 volts) was detected on Curiosity’s 450th Martian day. The The possibility of a “soft short” is being investigated. A “soft short” partially conducts electricity differing from a “hard” short that occurs when two wires touch that shouldn’t.

Jim Erickison of JPL says: The vehicle is safe and stable, fully capable of operating in its present condition, but we are taking the precaution of investigating what may be a soft short.” so far, analysis has shown a voltage change had occurred intermittently three times prior to the current event.

The press release reminded me about the “soft short” on landing day involving the explosive-release deployment devices. That reduced the bus voltage to the 11 volts mentioned here from an original 16 volts.

It sounds like in total, the voltage has dropped from 16 volts to 4 volts. While Curiosity can operate, hopefully the mission managers can get this sorted out before another 50 to 75 percent voltage drop happens. I have to think the mission team will get to the bottom of things if at all possible, even from around 261,518,000 km / 162500000 miles.

Getting to the bottom of the problem is one thing, mitigating it is quite another — good luck!