The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) upgraded the software on the Mars Curiosity Rover, which is not back in business after a short pause.
In mid-January, Curiosity started drilling at a rock target dubbed "Mojave" on Mars to collect samples. The rover initially conducted a mini-drill to assess if the rock is suitable for further drilling. The space agency revealed that the target appeared to have crystal minerals.
During the same period NASA also revealed that the Curiosity will have a software upgrade, which will result in the rover to stop operations for about a week. NASA also revealed that the latest software upgrade will be the fourth since the rover landed on the Red Planet in August 2012.
The software upgrade was meant to add protection. Next week's planned software revision, like the mission's earlier ones, adds protections against potential vulnerabilities that were identified by scientists. The software upgrade will also improve the planning of the rover's drive on the Martian surface more efficiently.
"The files have already been uplinked and are sitting in the rover's file system to be ready for the installation," says Danny Lam, the deputy engineering operations chief leading the upgrade process.
NASA also revealed that the software upgrade will enable the use of Curiosity's gyroscope-containing "inertial measurement unit" at the same time as the rover's drill. This change will enable the robot in sensing any slippage while drilling the planet's surface.
A BBC report indicates that NASA has completed the software upgrade for Curiosity and the rover is back in action.
The BBC report suggests that following the software upgrade, Curiosity did not waste any time and drilled a mini-test hole at a target called Mojave 2, as attempts to drill in Mojave resulted in the rock to split.
The Mars rover is looking out for a steady rock to start drilling on the Martian surface. NASA will conduct sample analysis following the mini-drill at its on-board lab in Curiosity. If everything goes as planned, the task will mark the fifth drill sample picked by the rover and assessed on its on-board lab.
Curiosity is currently investigating Mount Sharp's lower layers. The location is at the center of Gale Crater, where the rover landed in 2012.