After 11 years, NASA scientists running the Mars Odyssey Orbiter have decided to switch the machine's redundant computing functions from one side to the other in an attempt to keep the technology serviceable as possible.
Odyssey, which spends its time performing a number of science functions like taking close-up shots of the Red Planet and relaying information from the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers operating on the surface of the planet, has redundant systems - side A and side B, NASA says.
"We have been on the A side for more than 11 years. Everything on the A side still works, but the inertial measurement unit on that side has been showing signs of wearing out," said Odyssey Mission Manager Chris Potts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a release. "We will swap to the B side on Nov. 5 so that we still have some life available in reserve on the A side. The spare inertial measurement unit is factory new, last operated on the day before launch."
The inertial measurement unit is a gyroscope mechanism senses changes in the spacecraft's orientation, providing important information for control of pointing the antenna, solar arrays and instruments, NASA said.
The side swap will take place on Nov. 5 and will put Odyssey into "safe mode." As the team and the spacecraft verify all systems can operate well over the following several days, the orbiter will return to full operations, conducting its own science observations, as well as serving as a communications relay, NASA said. The Curiosity and Opportunity rover teams will reduce the amount of data planned for downlinking until Odyssey returns to full capacity after the side swap is complete, and will maintain near-normal tactical operations in the interim, NASA said.