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Software Upgrade?

New Scientist

The NASA Spirit rover was struck last week by a failure that left it unable to communicate, hiccupping through an endless series of computer resets and unable to go to sleep to recharge its batteries.

Project manager Pete Theisinger had called the craft's condition "critical" on Friday and said it would almost certainly never regain full functionality; he now thinks a full recovery is likely.

The problem has been traced to the craft's 256 megabyte flash memory, a nonvolatile form of memory similar to the flash memory cards in digital cameras. If necessary, the rover can perform all of its roaming, picture-taking and scientific research without using the flash memory at all, albeit perhaps at a slightly reduced pace.

But more likely, Theisinger said on Sunday, it is a bug in the software that controls how the computer stores information in the flash memory. If so, over the coming days or weeks the team should be able to trace the problem, devise a software patch and send it up to the craft.

There are some great opportunities here for a software licensing programme...

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