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The Bugs that went to Mars and Terrorized Earth

Speaker: Rajeev Joshi

Seminar: CITRIS People and Robots Initiative“Design of Robotics and Embedded systems, Analysis, and Modeling” Seminars (DREAMS) | Monday, February 27 | 4 – 5 PM | 250 Sutardja Dai Hall | Webcast

Since its dramatic landing in Gale crater in August 2012, the Curiosity Rover has been busy exploring the surface of Mars, looking for evidence of past habitable environments. Having completed over 4 years on Mars, and with nearly 17 kms on its odometer, Curiosity has already made historic discoveries, finding evidence of an ancient freshwater streambed, organic molecules and other key ingredients necessary for life. Yet, in spite of its great successes, the mission has not been without a few hiccups. In this talk, we discuss the most significant of these: the Sol-200 anomaly, when the failure of a flash memory chip uncovered three latent software bugs that nearly killed the mission. We describe how the anomaly manifested itself, how recovery was achieved, and lessons learnt from the experience. The work described in this talk was carried out at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


Rajeev Joshi is a Principal Engineer at the Lab for Reliable Software at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he works on building and applying tools based on formal methods to improve mission software reliability. He is also currently the Chief Engineer for Flight Software and Avionics Systems at JPL. He was a member of the Curiosity rover flight software development team, and, after landing, a member of the surface operations team, serving as data management chair and supporting anomaly investigations. For his work on Curiosity, he received two JPL Mariner Awards and the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal. He holds a B.Tech in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and an MS/PhD (also in Computer Sciences) from the University of Texas at Austin. His previous employment includes 4 years at the DEC/Compaq/HP Systems Research Center (SRC) in Palo Alto, CA, and 2 years at AT&T Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ. He is an elected member (and current secretary) of IFIP Working Group 2.3 on Programming Methodology.