A selfie from the Curiosity Rover, taken earlier this year.

A selfie from the Curiosity Rover, taken earlier this year. (Photo: NASA/JPL Caltech/MSSS/Public Domain)

As humanity’s current Mars ambassador, the Curiosity Rover spends its days rolling over the landscape, investigating the red planet’s geology and chemistry and snapping the occasional selfie. It relays all of its findings to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Over the past week, though, Curiosity took a mysterious break. On July 2nd, for the first time since 2013, the rover went into “safe mode”—a kind of hibernation in which it “ceases most activities other than keeping itself healthy,” the JPL announced on Wednesday.

In early 2013, when it had been on the planet for merely nine months, Curiosity went into safe mode a few times. Since then, though, it’s been smooth zooming, and this latest outage is somewhat mysterious. JPL cites “an unexpected mismatch between camera software and data-processing software,” and says that engineers are working to wake it back up.

In the meantime, NASA recently renewed Curiosity’s contract, and the little guy will remain on Mars for at least two more years. Maybe it just needs a rest.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.