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.

  • National NewsMore>>

  • Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war

    Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war

    Sunday, July 27 2014 10:36 AM EDT2014-07-27 14:36:04 GMT
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Hamas says it has agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza war ahead of a major Muslim holiday. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the truce would go into effect at 2 p.m. Sunday. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, is expected to begin Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.More >>
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Hamas says it has agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza war ahead of a major Muslim holiday. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the truce would go into effect at 2 p.m. Sunday. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, is expected to begin Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.More >>
  • Dutch: 1st victim identified from Flight 17

    Dutch: 1st victim identified from Flight 17

    Saturday, July 26 2014 5:55 PM EDT2014-07-26 21:55:02 GMT
    THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The Dutch government says the first victim has been identified from the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster.The name and sex of the victim, a Dutch national, weren't released. The government said Saturday the next of kin and mayor of the victim's hometown have been informed.More >>
    THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The Dutch government says the first victim has been identified from the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster.The name and sex of the victim, a Dutch national, weren't released. The government said Saturday the next of kin and mayor of the victim's hometown have been informed.More >>
  • 3 rockets hit Israel as Hamas rejects Gaza truce

    3 rockets hit Israel as Hamas rejects Gaza truce

    Saturday, July 26 2014 5:19 PM EDT2014-07-26 21:19:11 GMT
    JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli military says three rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel despite a proposed extension of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza war.Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel's proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight Saturday.More >>
    JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli military says three rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel despite a proposed extension of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza war.Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel's proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight Saturday.More >>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • WILDFIRE WATCH 2014: DNR tackling new wildfire near Tonasket

    WILDFIRE WATCH 2014: DNR tackling new wildfire near Tonasket

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 3:03 PM EDT2014-07-30 19:03:06 GMT
    TONASKET, Wash.- The Department of Natural Resources says they are battling a new wildfire northeast of Wauconda and Tonasket. The fire broke out on Tuesday, July 29th and is called the "Torado Mountain" wildfire. DNR crews are attacking this fire from the ground and air.
    More >>
    TONASKET, Wash.- The Department of Natural Resources says they are battling a new wildfire northeast of Wauconda and Tonasket. The fire broke out on Tuesday, July 29th and is called the "Torado Mountain" wildfire. DNR crews are attacking this fire from the ground and air.
    More >>
  • Search warrant executed for animal cruelty investigation

    Search warrant executed for animal cruelty investigation

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 2:33 PM EDT2014-07-30 18:33:23 GMT
    KHQ.COM - A search warrant was executed on Wednesday at 23239 S. Cross Road, Cheney, WA as part of an ongoing investigation of animal cruelty and neglect.SCRAPS received a complaint during the recent Watermelon Hill Fire regarding five horses that were temporarily evacuated to the Cheney Rodeo Grounds.
    More >>
    KHQ.COM - A search warrant was executed on Wednesday at 23239 S. Cross Road, Cheney, WA as part of an ongoing investigation of animal cruelty and neglect.SCRAPS received a complaint during the recent Watermelon Hill Fire regarding five horses that were temporarily evacuated to the Cheney Rodeo Grounds.
    More >>
  • Action Cam: Barefoot & Bubble Soccer Tournament This Saturday In Liberty Lake!

    Action Cam: Barefoot & Bubble Soccer Tournament This Saturday In Liberty Lake!

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 2:01 PM EDT2014-07-30 18:01:55 GMT
    LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. - It's all about soccer this Saturday at Pavilion Park in Liberty Lake! The 2nd annual Barefoot 3v3 soccer tournament kicks off at 8am. 74 teams with players ranging in age from 5 to 50 are participating. In addition to the soccer, there will be an opportunity for you to play "bubble soccer" for a small fee. You have to see it to believe it so check out the videos!More >>
    LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. - It's all about soccer this Saturday at Pavilion Park in Liberty Lake! The 2nd annual Barefoot 3v3 soccer tournament kicks off at 8am. 74 teams with players ranging in age from 5 to 50 are participating. In addition to the soccer, there will be an opportunity for you to play "bubble soccer" for a small fee. You have to see it to believe it so check out the videos!More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KHQ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.