Mars Rover Curiosity's Wheel Has More Damage

Though it has only driven ten miles, the harsh conditions are taking a toll.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

During a scheduled check, NASA discovered new damage to one of Curiosity's wheels this week. Two sections of the raised tread, called grousers, have become worn and partial detached from the aluminum wheel. The damage comes as no surprise, and according to a press release from NASA, it's just a metric of the wheel's life span.

Since landing on August 6, 2012, Curiosity has covered just 9.9 miles. That may not seem like much, but it travels inches at a time. Every move is carefully planned, executed, and verified to avoid unnecessary wear and tear. Caution became an even greater priority after damage to the wheels was discovered in 2013. The extent of that damage, which included holes and tears in the 0.75 millimeter outer skin of the wheels, was far greater than NASA had anticipated. Since then, the rover's route has been thoroughly mapped to avoid the roughest Martian terrain, which could cause further damage. 

The 16-inch wide wheels have been holding up well since the initial damage, and NASA doesn't expect the broken grousers to impact the rover's activities. After spending its first four months on Mars, NASA extended Curiosity's two year mission indefinitely. With a power supply designed to last until about 2067, one way or another, NASA plans to drive it until it dies.       

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Damage to Curiosity's wheel discovered in 2013