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Mars orbiter suffers computer glitch

According to a statement from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) switched itself into a precautionary safe standby mode on Sunday after an unscheduled swap from one main computer to another.

“The spacecraft is healthy, in communication and fully powered,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Manager Dan Johnston of the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We have stepped up the communication data rate, and we plan to have the spacecraft back to full operations within a few days.”

Space.com reports that due to the glitch the MRO is not sending data from NASA’s Curiosity and Opportunity rovers back to Earth. Space.com adds that the MRO has put itself into safe mode fives times due to unscheduled computer swaps.

Launched on August 12, 2005, the MRO is on a search for proof that water persisted on the Martian surface for a long period of time. It remains a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to offer a suitable habitat for life on the Red Planet.