NASA Plans To Backup Data & Reformat Flash Storage From 125 Million Miles Away

Every one of us who has owned a computer has at least once carried out the time consuming and often frustrating task of backing up the contents and formatting the storage of our computer to restore its performance. If you thought that you have a difficult job, think again. NASA researchers are planning to execute the same thing remotely from 125 million miles or 20 crore kilometers away. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California which is responsible for the Mars Exploration Rover Project has made arrangements to backup the contents and reformat the flash memory of the Opportunity rover.

NASA Rover
Image Capture from Opportunity Mars Rover

Opportunity Mars rover, Curiosity’s elder brother has been on the planet since a decade has recently suffered from a dozen resets in the past month. The recovery procedures took a day or two and interfered with the rover’s day-to-day activities. Researchers identified the cause of these glitches to be the flash memory. The flash memory installed on the Opportunity rover is the similar to the ones we use are external storage in smartphones, cameras and tablets. Individual cells in the flash memory sector wear out due to repeated use and reformatting identifies the bad cells and flags them as unusable while clearing the memory at the same time.

John Callas, the project manager of the NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project says that it is a low-risk process as the essential software of Opportunity is stored on a non-volatile source. The reformatting procedure is not new for NASA as it had already carried out the procedure successfully on the Sprit rover that had landed simultaneously with Opportunity in 2004. The team will first download all the remaining data on the flash storage to earth and switch the rover to “operating mode” which does not require the flash memory and format it. The procedure will take place in the first week of September.

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