NASA has confirmed that the Mars Rover Opportunity’s flash memory has been successfully reformatted so that it doesn’t use a corrupted memory bank. The agency also announced that yesterday Opportunity completed the marathon traveling for 42.195 kilometers (26.219 miles) on Mars. Sure, it took a bit since about two months it celebrated 11 Earth’s years on the red planet but it’s another record for this extraordinary rover.
The sophisticated action on the Mars Rover Opportunity’s flash memory was necessary following the problems it started suffering because of a corrupted memory bank. For quite some time, Opportunity worked without using its flash memory but this meant that the data collected and not transmitted to Earth got lost when night arrived and the rover fell asleep to save energy.
For this reason, NASA decided to proceed with a solution more sophisticated than a normal reformatting. It took time to prepare the new software but it was eventually sent to the Mars Rover Opportunity and the operation was successful. Now it can resume collecting data that will be definitely sent to the mission control center the next Martian day if there are too many to send them all before the night arrives.
In this period, the Mars Rover Opportunity has been working in an area called “Marathon Valley”. Spectrometric observations made by space probes in orbit indicate that in that valley there are clay minerals. This suggests that in the past there was water so Opportunity was sent to carry out in-depth analyzes.
The name Marathon Valley wasn’t been given by chance. At NASA mission control they had already calculated that the Mars Rover Opportunity would cover in that area the stretch required to reach the 42,195 kilometers that make up a marathon. Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, explained that the mission isn’t about establishing distance record but in doing scientific research. However, he admitted that running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool.
The doubts on the continuation of the Mars Rover Opportunity’s mission aren’t just about its ability to avoid fatal failures and maintain energy levels sufficient to operate. In the coming years, there may also be budget problems that could prevent NASA from devoting resources to this mission. It would be a shame so let’s hope that NASA can find a solution to continue a mission of great success.