News from Apr 13, 2018
After more than 14 years of gathering important data of the Red Planet, the gyroscopes installed on the Mars Express spacecraft are close to failing. Originally intended for a 2-year mission, the spacecraft as a whole is still in good shape. Together with two startrackers, the six gyroscopes measure Mars Express’ orientation in space. This is essential for correctly pointing its antenna towards Earth and its instruments towards Mars. A new software update delivered across over 150 million km of space intends to prolong the gyroscopes lifespan. The hack involves the rewriting of a 15-year old code to fly the mission primarily using the startrackers and only occasionally switching on the gyros. After intense testing, this multi-month effort is going to be applied on April 16 when Mars Express is shut down and the reboot is triggered.