NASA engineers successfully rebooted the Mars Odyssey orbiter Thursday in an operation to clear its systems of memory flaws and restore a faulty backup system, the space agency said.
The orbiter "properly followed commands today to shut down and restart, a strategy by its engineers to clear any memory flaws accumulated in more than five years since Odyssey's last reboot," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
The Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001 and has never switched from its primary components, called "Side A," to a backup called "Side B."
The systems include identical sets of computer processors, navigation sensors, relay radios and other components.
In March 2006, a "Side B" component that manages the distribution of power became inoperable, but engineers thought that rebooting the system might bring it back to life.
They were proved right in Thursday's rebooting operation, which restored the component.
"For nearly two years, we have not known for certain whether the backup systems would be usable, so this successful reboot has allowed us to ascertain their health and availability for future use," said Philip Varghese, Odyssey's project manager.
Engineers will carefully return the spacecraft to full functioning over the next few days, and the probe's science instruments will be back to studying Mars next week, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
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