Curiosity self-portrait at “Windjana” drilling site. The Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this space-based selfie. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity self-portrait at “Windjana” drilling site. The Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this space-based selfie.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Engineers on Earth are trying to get a little traction about wheels on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity rover is showing wheel “wear and tear” that engineers did not expect this early into the mission. Getting to Mount Sharp is a priority, but the robot has had to adjust its driving to compensate for the wheel damage.

Sharp, pointy rocks have played havoc with Curiosity’s wheels, forcing driving teams to seek soft patches of sandy Martian soil.

To help lessen the wheel issues on Mars a team of experts recently visiting the Dumont Dunes in California’s Mojave Desert, near Death Valley.

Wheel damage shown in this Mast Camera (Mastcam) image. Credit: MSSS-MALIN

Wheel damage shown in this Mast Camera (Mastcam) image.
Credit: MSSS-MALIN

Scarecrow

Making use of a Curiosity’s test vehicle for driving, Scarecrow, engineers earlier this month appraised plotting a pathway on the Red Planet that involves trekking across less-damaging sand ripples.

Scarecrow has a full-size version of Curiosity’s wheels and other driving equipment, but doesn’t have the “brains.” Engineers use it to test drive on different types of terrain.

Desert double on Earth, Scarecrow, has a full-size version of Curiosity’s wheels and other driving equipment. Engineers use it to test drive on different types of terrain.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Desert double on Earth, Scarecrow, has a full-size version of Curiosity’s wheels and other driving equipment. Engineers use it to test drive on different types of terrain.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity is halfway to Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high mountain which scientists call “the Promised Land.” At the base of Mount Sharp, scientists expect to find a variety of rocks and minerals stacked in layers. Each layer could tell a story about what the environment was like when the layer formed as well as any changes through time.

Wheel damage is shown on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. Image was acquired on June 22 using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Wheel damage is shown on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. Image was acquired on June 22 using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

2 Responses to “Mars Rover’s Wheel Wear and Tear”

  • Gary Hareland says:

    I just drove by Dumont Dunes on my way to and from Pahrump, Nevada and wish I knew when NASA was testing Scarecrow because I would have wanted to observe the test ! 🙂 In any case I wish them every success in resolving this wheel problem ! 🙂

  • I just added this site to my rss reader, great stuff. Cannot get enough!

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