Switch to the B-Side: It’s not only Mars rover Opportunity that is outliving its planned mission lifetime by years. Orbiting high above the Red Planet’s surface is another Martian warrior: NASA’s Mars Odyssey. The satellite arrived at Mars in 2001 and it’s still going strong, doing science and relaying critical data to and from current surface missions — including Mars rover Curiosity.
But this week, the spacecraft stopped transmitting data — it was giving itself a brain transplant.
As with most space missions, our robotic explorers have back-up and redundant systems that can be switched on in the event of the primary system failing. As Odyssey has been using the same computer for is operations for over a decade, mission managers decided to switch all operations to the secondary computer, or the B-side. The A-side was showing signs of age and recent troubles with the A-side’s gyroscope hastened the need for the swap.