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Glitch strikes Mars rover instrument
Posted: Wed, Mar 16, 2005, 7:26 AM ET (1226 GMT)
Mars Exploration Rover (NASA/JPL) Scientists have suspended use of a spectrometer on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity to investigate a problem with the instrument, NASA reported late Tuesday. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-TES) on Opportunity started returning incomplete data sets earlier this month, and rover managers decided to turn off the instrument to avoid causing further problems while they investigate the glitch. The problem could be either with a switch that tells a mirror in the instrument to begin moving, or that the mirror is not moving at a constant speed; the former problem could be resolved by using a backup switch. Even if the problem cannot be resolved, officials said, the instrument can still return some useful data. The glitch is one of just a handful of notable problems to affect the rover since it arrived at Mars nearly 14 months ago. The problem is not affecting an identical instrument on Opportunity's twin, Spirit. Spirit got a power boost a week ago when winds, perhaps a dust devil, passed over the rover, cleaning the panels of an accumulation of dust.
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