Curiosity Rover Snaps First Photos Since Switching ‘Brains’

The new photos were taken with a camera that the robot hasn't used since 2013.

Mars photo taken by the Curiosity rover after its 'brain' switch.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

The new photos were taken with a camera that the robot hasn't used since 2013.

Earlier this month, the Curiosity Mars Rover underwent a major hardware change after a technical issue with its active computer got in the way of its science mission.

The computer glitch left Curiosity unable to store science data, which meant that the robot couldn’t remember what it was studying on Mars. At the same time, the rover was no longer able to make its daily entries into its operation journal — a chronicle of all its actions on the red planet and Curiosity’s best chance of getting fixed.

Luckily, the rover was sent to Mars with twin computers — Side-A and Side-B — to make the system redundant in case of error. Therefore, NASA commanded the 6-year-old robot to turn on its backup computer, essentially having Curiosity switch “brains,” the Inquisitr reported at the time.

The maneuver was intended to buy NASA engineers enough time to figure out what went wrong with the previously used computer and allow the rover to keep storing its data.

So far, the plan seems to have worked just fine, judging by a recent tweet from the Curiosity team. Although the rover still has a way to go before it’s ready to resume all of its operations, Curiosity is back to taking photos and has recently beamed back the first images captured after the “brain” swap.

“I get by with a little help from my friends,” Curiosity wrote on Twitter yesterday, unveiling one of the new photos from Mars.

According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — which manages the rover’s scientific mission on Mars — the snapshot was taken on Sol 2199 (October 13) at 8:33 a.m. ET.

Curiosity snapped a few more photos on the same day, which are all available on the Mars Science Laboratory archive.

The robot is currently using its Side-A computer, which Curiosity originally turned on when it first landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. The rover switched over to Side-B in February 2013 due to some hardware and software issues — which have since then been addressed.

Now that Curiosity has turned on its original “brain,” the robot is seeing Mars with literally different eyes — and taking pictures of the Martian landscape with a different camera than it has used for the past five years.

“Thanks to the team swapping me back to the A-side computer, I took and sent back images this week with a camera I haven’t used since 2013. Work continues to get full operations back on-line,” Curiosity tweeted.

With the robot back to storing data and updating its event records, NASA should be able to diagnose the problem that sidelined Curiosity’s Side-B computer. Since Side-B has a larger memory size, the plan is to fix it and have the rover switch “brains” one more time to revert to the previously used computer.