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I am now running my annual July fund-raising campaign to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the establishment of Behind the Black. For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, Twitter. These companies practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, facts repeatedly confirmed by news stories and by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.


Thus, I must have your direct support to keep this webpage alive. Not only does the money pay the bills, it gives me the freedom to speak honestly about science and culture, instead of being forced to write it as others demand.


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Curiosity’s wheels holding up despite very mountainous and rocky terrain

Wheel comparison on Curiosity after five months of rough travel
Click here and here for original images.

In the past half year the Mars rover Curiosity has moved into the mountainous foothills of Mount Sharp, crossing the roughest and rockiest terrain seen during its entire decade-long sojourn on the red planet.

Such terrain poses a serious threat to the rover’s already damaged wheels. Since early in the mission the science team had discovered that the wheels were more easily damaged by the Martian surface than had been expected when they were designed. Since then engineers have been very careful about picking the rover’s route, weaving it in and out to avoid the worst ground. They also take images of the wheels every few months to see if any additional damage has occurred.

The bottom image to the right is part of the most recent wheel survey, taken on January 11, 2022, the 3,353 sol the rover has been on Mars. The top image was taken about six and a half months earlier, in early June 2021. The numbers indicate the same tread areas in both pictures.

Based on this one comparison of part of one wheel, it appears that Curiosity’s wheels have not experienced much new damage, even though during the last half year it has climbed into the mountains and has been traveling continuously over rocks, stones, and boulders. Even now, as its sits in the stone valley beyond Gordon Notch, the ground everywhere is stark and forbidding. Yet, this wheel appears to show no new damage, suggesting that the rover’s full set of wheels are also holding up quite well considering its recent travels.

I focus on this particular wheel because it is the same wheel I have used for comparison since 2017, and thus provides a nice baseline for change. In fact, a comparison of today’s image with the one from 2017 shows that in four years there has been practically no change.

This data is quite encouraging, and bodes well for the mission, suggesting there is really nothing to stop Curiosity from climbing Mount Sharp for years to come.

Of course, this is a comparison of only one part of one of Curiosity’s six wheels. A review of the other wheels might suggest a different conclusion. I suspect however that the other wheels show the same thing. The engineers of Curiosity have done a miraculous job protecting the wheels these last four years.

Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and 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.


  • Col Beausabre

    The Chieftain wants to know how the track tension is doing

  • William

    Are we leaving plastic on the surface of Mars. I am horrified at the attitude of NASA contributing to global warming. This is literally violence against the indigenous population. /sarc

  • Star Bird

    At least no Flat Tires and Marvin likes to take spin on it with K-9 and one of those Instant Martians

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