Like any computer on Earth, long-duration space robots' memories sometimes need to be reformatted. This is certainly the case for NASA's veteran Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity that has had more than its fair share of computer glitches recently.
So the time has come, according to mission managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. - the little robot needs a memory wipe.
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The decision to reformat Opportunity's flash memory early next month is prompted by the multiple computer resets the rover has been experiencing. This month alone, Opportunity has had to be rebooted a dozen times, interrupting valuable time that should be taken up with carrying out science near the rim of Endeavour crater.
"Worn-out cells in the flash memory are the leading suspect in causing these resets," said JPL's John Callas, project manager for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project. "The flash reformatting is a low-risk process, as critical sequences and flight software are stored elsewhere in other non-volatile memory on the rover."