Reformat your disk from a distance of 200,000,000 kilometers

I don’t know how it is with you, but for me having to perform formats, restoring backups etcetera is a chore which keeps me sweating until the equipment is willing to come up without problems again. And all that while sitting in front of it and having the computer shop around the corner if anything goes permanently wrong. No such thing at a few hundred million kilometers away. On Mars. With a 10+ year old computer.

An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover’s flash memory.

The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover’s planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses. Individual cells within a flash memory sector can wear out from repeated use. Reformatting clears the memory while identifying bad cells and flagging them to be avoided.

“Worn-out cells in the flash memory are the leading suspect in causing these resets,” said John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, project manager for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project. “The flash reformatting is a low-risk process, as critical sequences and flight software are stored elsewhere in other non-volatile memory on the rover.” … (JPL)


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