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Curiosity checks out its wheels

One wheel on Curiosity, as seen in July 2020 and January 2021
For full resolution images, go here and here for the
top image, and here and here for the bottom image.

Having finished a two week look at a sea of sand, Curiosity’ science team has resumed its journey east towards the higher slopes of Mount Sharp.

Before they started out however, they decided to aim the rover’s high resolution mast camera at Curiosity’s wheels to see how they are faring and whether any of the damage that occurred in the early days of the mission has worsened. The photo on the right compares what was seen this week with the damage on the same wheel as seen in July 2020. This is also the same wheel I have posted images of since September 2017.

Not only does there appear to be no appreciable new damage to this wheel in the six months since July, remarkably, a comparison between today’s image and the photo from September 2017, shows little change as well.

In the more than three years since that 2017 photo, Curiosity has crossed Vera Rubin Ridge, crossed the clay unit, climbed up the next ridge to take a look at the incredibly rough terrain of the Greenheugh Pedimont, and then continued across the clay unit on its way to higher and possibly more challenging terrain.

In all those travels it appears this particular wheel has fared rather nicely, accumulating in at least this part little new damage. This bodes well for the rover’s future, as the wheels have been a concern since Curiosity’s first two years on Mars, when engineers found they were experiencing more damage than expected. The travel techniques they have adopted since to protect the wheels appear to be working.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Jay

    Looks like two new Morse characters are added to Curiosity’s wheels: a ‘T’ on number 5 and a ‘E’ on number 6 (looks like it will soon become an ‘I’.
    For those of you who do not know, on the wheels are the Morse Code characters ‘JPL’ (· – – – · – – · · – · ·). They are not displayed on this photo.

  • Roland

    Akin to AAA, we should invest in Rover Tire Repair.
    Fly up, swap it out, return the embedded samples.

  • Edward_2

    A can of Fix-A-Flat should do the job.

  • Max

    Hopefully the wheels have airow? gel in them to prevent the sand or rocks from entering the holes making the machine heavier, slowing the rover down

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