LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE - The Curiosity rover is recovering from a computer glitch that sent the Mars explorer into "safe mode," halting scientific work.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers expect the rover to resume operations over the next few days using its backup B-side computer, according to a mission status update.
Curiosity failed to enter sleep mode as scheduled on Wednesday, and didn't send any data for scientists to pick up on Thursday.
"We switched computers to get to a standard state from which to begin restoring routine operations," said Curiosity project manager Richard Cook.
Engineers are now working on figuring what went wrong with the A-side computer and restore its functionality.
Diagnostics indicate flash memory files in the A-side computer became corrupted.
Cosmic rays hitting the Mars surface might have caused the glitch, Cook said in a Space.com article.
"The hardware that we fly is radiation tolerant," Cook told the website, "but there's a limit to how hardened it can be. You can still get high-energy particles that can cause the memory to be corrupted. It certainly is a possibility and that's what we're looking into."
The rover used its B-side computer during its flight from Earth to Mars, and switched to the A-side before making its entry, descent and landing in August.
Curiosity is in the middle of analyzing drill samples it collected in February, a first for a planet other than Earth.
Scientists expect those samples will show evidence of a past watery environment at the rover's location, within the low-elevation Gale Crater.
The rover's mission involves searching for clues that Mars may have once had conditions favorable for microbial life.