Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 465: Update On Curiosity From USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: the RTG

25 November 2013

I'm SOWG Chair again today, planning Sol 465, which includes the first drive since the electrical issue over a week ago. The change in power bus voltage appears to have been caused by an electrical short in the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG), the nuclear power source for the rover. This type of intermittent short has been seen in similar RTGs, including the one on the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn for years. The rover electronics are designed to operate at variable power supply voltages, so this is not a major problem. In fact, the voltage returned to the normal level late last week, so we are ready to drive again. After some targeted ChemCam and Mastcam observations, a 64-meter drive is planned.