The Magellan spacecraft has mapped about 11 percent of Venus despite a malfunction in a system that helps point the solar panels needed to make the orbiter run, NASA says.

The malfunction is "quite minor in that the spacecraft continues to perform fine," said Phil Allin, an administrative assistant at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It's like having a warning light on your car."Allin said Tuesday that engineers expect to fix the problem soon.

The orbiter has collected picture information equal to "an area that on Earth would completely cover the width of the United States and extend from the North Pole to beyond the southern tip of South America," Allin said.

Part of a $744 million mission, Magellan was launched from space shuttle Atlantis in May 1989 and has circled Venus more than 500 times since entering orbit on Aug. 10.