Curiosity Sleeps As Solar Blast Races Toward Mars - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Curiosity Sleeps As Solar Blast Races Toward Mars

Posted: Updated:

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Curiosity hunkered down Wednesday after the sun unleashed a blast that raced toward Mars.

While the hardy rover was designed to withstand punishing space weather, its handlers decided to power it down as a precaution since it suffered a recent computer problem.

"We're being more careful," said project manager Richard Cook of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which runs the $2.5 billion mission.

While Curiosity slept, the Opportunity rover and two NASA spacecraft circling overhead carried on with normal activities.

On Tuesday, scientists noticed a huge flare erupting from the sun that hurled a stream of radiation in Mars' direction. The solar burst also spawned a cloud of superheated gas that barreled toward the red planet at 2 million mph.

The eruption did not appear severe or extreme, but "middle of the road, all things considered" said space weather chief Bob Rutledge at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The solar tempest was not expected to have an impact on Earth. In the past, such outbursts have triggered solar storms with the ability to disrupt utility grids, airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services. They're also known to produce shimmering auroras in places farther from the poles.

Since Mars lacks a planet-wide magnetic field, it does not experience geomagnetic storms. Rather, the planet sees a spike in radiation, Rutledge said.

Powerful solar blasts can cause trouble to Mars spacecraft. In 2003, an intense solar flare knocked out the radiation detector on the Odyssey orbiter.

NASA does not expect similar drama from the latest solar activity.

In the worst-case scenario, one or more of the working Mars spacecraft may enter "safe mode" in which science activities are halted but they remain in contact with Earth.

"We'll be watching and seeing what happens," said Roger Gibbs, JPL deputy manager for the Mars exploration program.

The unsettled space weather comes as Curiosity is recovering from a memory hiccup that put its science experiments on hold. It was the first major problem to hit the car-size since landing in an ancient crater near the Martian equator last year to hunt for the chemical building blocks of life.

Engineers were in the middle of troubleshooting when they decided to wait for the weather to pass. The delay means it'll take longer for Curiosity to return to analyzing the pinch of rock powder from a recent drilling.

Since its instruments are turned off, it can't use its radiation sensor to track the solar particles.

"It's just bad timing," Cook said.

HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • National NewsMore>>

  • 1 student wounded in shooting at Florida high school

    1 student wounded in shooting at Florida high school

    Saturday, April 21 2018 12:40 AM EDT2018-04-21 04:40:23 GMT
    Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner via APDoug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner via AP
    Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner via APDoug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner via AP

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A gunman carrying a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire at a Florida high school, wounding one student as other students and teachers piled desks and cabinets against classroom doors to make barricades. The 19-year-old suspect was later arrested and apologized as he was led away in handcuffs. Friday's shooting at Forest High School in Ocala happened on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence. A 17-year-old boy was taken ...

    More >>

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A gunman carrying a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire at a Florida high school, wounding one student as other students and teachers piled desks and cabinets against classroom doors to make barricades. The 19-year-old suspect was later arrested and apologized as he was led away in handcuffs. Friday's shooting at Forest High School in Ocala happened on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence. A 17-year-old boy was taken ...

    More >>
  • CDC expands E. coli warning to all romaine lettuce

    CDC expands E. coli warning to all romaine lettuce

    Friday, April 20 2018 8:34 PM EDT2018-04-21 00:34:09 GMT
    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its warning about an E. coli outbreak connected to romaine lettuce to cover all forms of romaine, including whole heads and hearts of romaine grown in the Yuma, Arizona, growing area. A previous warning was limited to chopped forms of romaine, including salads and salad mixes. The CDC based the new warning on eight new cases of acute gastroenteritis at a correctional facility in Nome, Alaska, that appear to be c...More >>
    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its warning about an E. coli outbreak connected to romaine lettuce to cover all forms of romaine, including whole heads and hearts of romaine grown in the Yuma, Arizona, growing area. A previous warning was limited to chopped forms of romaine, including salads and salad mixes. The CDC based the new warning on eight new cases of acute gastroenteritis at a correctional facility in Nome, Alaska, that appear to be c...More >>
  • Off-duty LAPD officer charged with murder in DUI crash

    Off-duty LAPD officer charged with murder in DUI crash

    Friday, April 20 2018 7:07 PM EDT2018-04-20 23:07:07 GMT

    LOS ANGELES, Calif. (AP) - An off-duty Los Angeles police officer has been charged with murder in a fiery freeway crash that killed three people.    Prosecutors say Edgar Verduzco also was charged Friday with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence in connection with the Sept. 26 crash.  Verduzco appeared in court Friday but didn't enter a plea. The name of his attorney wasn't immediately known. Police said Verduzco was 

    More >>

    LOS ANGELES, Calif. (AP) - An off-duty Los Angeles police officer has been charged with murder in a fiery freeway crash that killed three people.    Prosecutors say Edgar Verduzco also was charged Friday with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence in connection with the Sept. 26 crash.  Verduzco appeared in court Friday but didn't enter a plea. The name of his attorney wasn't immediately known. Police said Verduzco was 

    More >>
  • Top Stories from KHQHomeMore>>

  • 'CHiPs' TV star Estrada donates police dog to Idaho agency

    'CHiPs' TV star Estrada donates police dog to Idaho agency

    Saturday, April 21 2018 2:40 PM EDT2018-04-21 18:40:35 GMT

    ST. ANTHONY, Idaho (AP) - "CHiPs" actor Erik Estrada has donated a drug dog to an east Idaho police agency where he's a reserve police officer.    The Rexburg Standard Journal report ed in a story on Friday that the star of the 1970s TV series about California Highway Patrol officers donated a 3-year-old German Shepherd-Malinois narcotics dog named Mako to the St. Anthony Police Department.

    More >>

    ST. ANTHONY, Idaho (AP) - "CHiPs" actor Erik Estrada has donated a drug dog to an east Idaho police agency where he's a reserve police officer.    The Rexburg Standard Journal report ed in a story on Friday that the star of the 1970s TV series about California Highway Patrol officers donated a 3-year-old German Shepherd-Malinois narcotics dog named Mako to the St. Anthony Police Department.

    More >>
  • Spokane police, firefighters respond to vehicle in river; no car recovered

    Spokane police, firefighters respond to vehicle in river; no car recovered

    Saturday, April 21 2018 2:17 PM EDT2018-04-21 18:17:08 GMT

    Spokane Police and firefighters responded to a report of a vehicle in the river Saturday morning near Helena and Sinto. A caller reported damage to a guardrail, skid marks and some car parts scattered along the Spokane River's banks. When emergency crews arrived on scene, no car was found. Spokane police used their drone as well as Spokane County Sheriff's Office helicopter Air 1 to search the river nearby, but were not able to locate anything.

    More >>

    Spokane Police and firefighters responded to a report of a vehicle in the river Saturday morning near Helena and Sinto. A caller reported damage to a guardrail, skid marks and some car parts scattered along the Spokane River's banks. When emergency crews arrived on scene, no car was found. Spokane police used their drone as well as Spokane County Sheriff's Office helicopter Air 1 to search the river nearby, but were not able to locate anything.

    More >>
  • Washington State Patrol bomb-sniffing dog recovering

    Washington State Patrol bomb-sniffing dog recovering

    Saturday, April 21 2018 1:51 PM EDT2018-04-21 17:51:26 GMT

    EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - A Washington State Patrol bomb-sniffing dog is recovering after inhaling something that caused an internal infection that required an operation.    KING-TV reports in a story on Friday that Sonyi will possibly be ready to return to work in early May.    Trooper Scott Legler says Sonyi in January inhaled something that made him sick while working at the ferry docks in Snohomish County.

    More >>

    EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - A Washington State Patrol bomb-sniffing dog is recovering after inhaling something that caused an internal infection that required an operation.    KING-TV reports in a story on Friday that Sonyi will possibly be ready to return to work in early May.    Trooper Scott Legler says Sonyi in January inhaled something that made him sick while working at the ferry docks in Snohomish County.

    More >>