NASA's Martian Robot's Wheel Treads On The Verge Of Breaking

First Posted: Mar 22, 2017 04:41 AM EDT

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is experiencing wearing and breaking in its wheel treads. The space agency just announced last Tuesday the first two breaks in its wheel treads, as it spotted the breaks during the routine check of the wheels.

CNET reports that NASA had its last check on Jan. 27 and saw the breaks in an initial stage. Its wheels were also seen with cracks in 2016. The rover has been exploring about 10 miles of Mars since its landing in 2012. In early 2013, there were dents and holes spotted in the rover.

The Curiosity rover comprises of six aluminum wheels. Each wheel is about 20 inches in diameters and 16 inches across. The breaks could damage the 19 zigzag-shaped grousers or treads that protect the wheels. The treads cover the wheel for about half as thick as the dime or by a quarter inch. This could make the rover balance its 1,982 pounds (899 kg) of weight and explore the rough terrain of Mars, according to Popular Science.

NASA theorized that when three treads on a wheel have broken, the wheel has accomplished about 60 percent of its valuable life, according to on-Earth wheel longevity testing. The two treads on the left middle wheel of the rover were broken between January and March. It is believed that it will be more than halfway through its lifespan.

Project Manager Jim Erickson stated that the left middle wheel is nearing its wear milestone. On the other hand, all six wheels have more than sufficient working lifespan remaining to fulfill its exploration and mission. Currently, the Curiosity rover is climbing up Mount Sharp to examine the climate of Mars including layers of rocks and areas that might contain sulfates and clays, which could suggest evidence of past or present liquid water. The Curiosity project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada, said that the breaking of treads of the wheels of the rover does not alter their plans or lessen their chance of examining the mineralogy on Mount Sharp.

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