Mars rover sends data after being silent for well over a day

Well unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past two days then you know that the Mars rover “Spirit” has been having a few problems:

From the Mars Rover Mission Blog

NASA Officials confirmed this morning that the Spirit rover has experienced a “very serious anomaly” after several attempts to recover data from Spirit failed, leaving scientists without a clue as to what might be wrong.

Basic command and response signals are being transmitted, but data from science tasks completed after Wednesday have not been sent. The basic tones indicate that the rover is still alive and functional, meaning that any anomaly would almost certainly be the result of a software problem.

The first sign of trouble occurred on Wednesday evening when NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor orbiter made a pass. The orbiter initially picked up radio signals from the rover as expected, but no data was transmitted. Mission Controllers dismissed this problem as the result of rain over the Canberra DSN Station. A second pass was made two hours later but the orbiter failed once again.

After a third pass on early Thursday morning failed, it became apparent that the problem lay within the Spirit rover. A direct communication from Earth to the rover failed to even return radio signals.

At 9am Thursday basic radio communication was back up, but the rover was still not transmitting data.

Engineers will today run further test scenarios and try to understand the situation in preparation for the next communication window, occuring at 7:10pm tonight PST – using the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. Direct contact will be attempted at around 3am Friday PST.

Well this morning, the team got a slow stream of data off the rover!

The Spirit rover successfully completed a data transfer at 6:30am PST this morning. The session lasted around 20 minutes, with an average transfer speed of roughly 120 bits per second (that seems awfully slow, doesn’t it?). Controllers are currently preparing a new set of commands to be sent later today with the hope of retrieving stored data from the last few days.

Updates should follow the press briefing taking place in a few hours.