NASA Mars rover Curiosity back up and running

Curiosity continues its mission after a short circuit shut down its Mars exploration activities for six days

Problems that put the Mars rover Curiosity out of commission for six days have been fixed so the vehicle, and its robotic arm, are now back at work.

NASA electrical engineers traced the problem to an internal short circuit in Curiosity's power source, the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator. The short circuit isn't expected to further affect either the power source or the rover's overall operations.

The short caused Curiosity's voltage level to drop from about 11 volts to about four volts on Nov. 17. The rover has now returned to its normal voltage level.

A six-day analysis of the problem has been completed. "We made a list of potential causes, and then determined which we could cross off, one by one," said rover electrical engineer Rob Zimmerman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Once the analysis determined that the rover was not in danger, its efforts continued on Saturday.

Back in full operation, Curiosity used its robotic arm to deliver portions of powdered rock to a laboratory inside the rover. Curiosity, which landed in 2012, has been carrying the powered rock for six months -- ever since drilling into a rock dubbed "Cumberland."

Some of the powder had previously been studied by the rover's scientific instruments.

Curiosity is on a long journey to the base of Mount Sharp, where it is expected to do the bulk of its scientific work. The rover, which carries 10 science instruments and 17 cameras, is expected to study samples at the base of the mountain, as well at its summit.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

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