Curiosity rover RENDERED ARMLESS by short circuit

Mars nuclear space tank parks after trouble strikes while retrieving sample

Humanity's Mars-resident nuclear-powered, laser-packing space tank Curiosity has a broken arm.

NASA boffins said the problem emerged on 27 February when "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."

During that operation "Telemetry received from the rover indicated that a transient short circuit occurred and the vehicle followed its programmed response, stopping the arm activity underway at the time of the irregularity in the electric current."

NASA has therefore parked Curiosity while it figures out what went wrong, and the status of the arm and the motors that power it.

"We are running tests on the vehicle in its present configuration before we move the arm or drive," said Curiosity project manager Jim Erickson.

The wounded arm has worked five times previously, transferring Martian soil samples to Curiosity's innards for detailed examinations.

It's not yet known what happened, or why, or if the rover can be remotely repaired.

NASA says "A transient short in some systems on the rover would have little effect on rover operations. In others, it could prompt the rover team to restrict use of a mechanism."

Here's hoping the former scenario is the outcome of this incident. ®

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