NASA's Mars rover Curiosity had an attitude problem. (But it's fine now.) | 1/24/2020 | Mike Wall
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An attitude problem sidelined NASA's Mars rover Curiosity recently, but the robot's handlers whipped it back into shape in short order.

"Partway through its last set of activities, Curiosity lost its orientation. Some knowledge of its attitude was not quite right, so it couldn't make the essential safety evaluation," Curiosity team member Dawn Sumner, a planetary geologist at the University of California, Davis, wrote in a mission update on Monday (Jan. 20).

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"Attitude" in this case refers to Curiosity's position in space, and the position of its various parts, such as its instrument-laden robotic arm. Losing attitude knowledge could result in some pretty bad outcomes — for example, bonking that robotic arm into something or mistakenly pointing a camera at the sun, Sumner explained.

Related: Amazing Mars Photos by NASA's Curiosity Rover (Latest Images)

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"Thus, Curiosity stopped moving, freezing in place until its knowledge of its orientation can be recovered," she added. "Curiosity kept sending us information, so we know what happened and can develop a recovery plan."

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That plan was designed to feed Curiosity the requisite attitude info. And the team didn't have to wait long to hear how things went.

"We learned this morning that plan was successful and Curiosity was ready for science once more!" mission team member Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at...
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