"An unplanned computer crash occurred on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance (MRO) orbiter on March 9, prompting the mission to work in safe mode temporarily," mission managers at NASA's Pasadena, California, report. The cause of the failure remains a mystery, but the team on Earth is currently engaged in restoring the mission.
The failure not only suspended orbital scientific operations, but it also suspended communication support for two rovers: Opportunity and Curiosity. Both rovers are currently using the obsolete NASA Mars Odyssey satellite as a satellite transponder. The MRO has six scientific instruments, including the famous high-resolution camera, the Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), which is used to observe the red planet in unsurpassed resolution. "The spacecraft is viable, connected and fully charged," said Dan Johnston, project manager for the MRO. "We have stepped up the transfer of data and plan to bring the ship up to 100% in a few days."
The MRO experienced four unexpected computer crashes since it arrived in Mars orbit in 2006. The last such incident occurred in November 2011. Safe mode in any robotic space mission is a guarantee that is automatically entered into action in case of unexpected failures in an electrical or computer system.
MRO has two computer systems - the “A” side and the “B” side. Where one side acts as a backup if the other side shuts down. It seems that the MRO spontaneously swapped the sides, which provoked a safe mode, reducing the chances of damage.