May 25, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Coffin Discovery on Mars? Why Mars Rovers' Diminishing Memory May Be A Problem for NASA

Dec 31, 2014 04:01 PM EST

It seems Mars enthusiasts have had some extra time over the holidays to painstakingly exam every image taken by NASA's Curiosity Rover.  And what they found is causing quite a stir, and a bit of concern over the Rover's spotty memory as of late. The latest discovery by these enthusiasts looks suspiciously like a coffin resting on Mars surface.

"It sure does look like a little coffin to me," Will Farrar wrote in an article for the website, Do You Know What's Up In The Sky. "Of course, the reality of it all is that it does look like a box-type feature carved out on another planet...."

At some point, or even now, something was "crawling around" on Mars, Farrar wrote -- something intelligent enough to work the stone and landscape, in the same way that humans have done for thousands of years.

Scott Waring, prolific author of UFO Sightings Daily, said he had noticed the coffin earlier this month but had been too busy to follow up on it and was glad others had done so.  Waring speculates the coffin shaped object to measure one meter (39.4 inches) across and 18 inches tall and wide, and he has expressed a wish that NASA take a closer look at the mysterious object.

"What would it take to get NASA to turn the rover around and examine the contents of this box?" Waring wrote. ".... Lots of alien species are short, including a species of greys."

However, examining this coffin-shaped object is the last thing on NASA's mind.   Their other rover, Opportunity, continues to suffer problems with its Flash memory that could put its mission in jeopardy.

The Opportunity has been exploring the surface of Mars for well over a decade; an incredible ten years longer than its expected three-month primary mission.  However, age and exposure to the harsher climate on Mars appears to be catching up with the rover.

The rover uses two type of memory known as "volatile" and "non-volatile" memory.  "The difference is non-volatile memory remembers everything even if you power off, in volatile memory everything goes away," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "So volatile memory is like the traditional RAM you have in your computer; non-volatile memory uses flash memory technology."

If the flash memory problems continue it could put the most exciting part of the mission in jeopardy.  "Perhaps the most exciting part of the mission is ahead of us... we have this valley, we call it Marathon Valley, only about 650 meters away from the rover" NASA officials say. Should it get there, the rover will have traveled the distance of a marathon on the red planet.  The Opportunity already holds the off-world record for any rover - robotic or driven by an Apollo astronaut.

NASA hopes that a software fix will repair the memory errors the rover is experiencing so the mission can continue.  NASA officials have their fingers crossed that it will reach its next milestone and continue to surprise scientists each day, as it continues even longer past its initial mission of just three months, and raising the bar for how long rovers can last on distant planets in our solar system.

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