"Hiccups" keep plaguing a computer aboard the Magellan spacecraft, which nevertheless has completed more than 30 consecutive orbits making radar pictures of cloud-covered Venus, NASA says.
The pesky malfunctions are in the backup computer that helps point the orbiter.The same computer - one of four aboard Magellan - played a major role when engineers lost contact with the spacecraft Aug. 16 and again on Aug. 21, although the precise cause of those incidents remains unknown.
Despite the glitches, the spacecraft on Wednesday morning completed its 30th consecutive orbit mapping the cracked, volcanic landscape of Venus. Magellan, which arrived at Venus on Aug. 10, is making almost eight orbits daily. It began its mapping mission on Saturday.
"Since Venus is almost the same size as Earth, the 30-orbit image patch . . . would drape an area on Earth extending from Los Angeles to Albuquerque and from the North Pole to nearly the South Pole," NASA said in a statement.
Pictures released in past weeks have shown long ridges and valleys, networks of faults, large flows of solidified lava and volcanic craters.
The most recent glitch happened Monday, when the backup to Magellan's main computer got a set of false alerts from the backup pointing computer. The spacecraft wasn't operating on either backup computer, so mapping continued.