If necessary, the Curiosity rover will be able to throw off part of the wheel to move on.

If necessary, the Curiosity rover will be able to throw off part of the wheel to move on.

While most of the fresh news from Mars is associated with the mission of the Perseverance rover, the Curiosity rover continues to operate on the Red Planet, which arrived there almost ten years ago and exceeded its planned operational life by five times.

Of course, the further the rover, the more problems will appear. One of the potential is severe damage to the wheels. The first damage was discovered by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) a year later. Of course, over the next eight years, the damage increased, because the device traveled more than 25 km.

new wheel versus wheel as of April 4, 2021

And now JPL experts have presented their plan of action in case of critical damage to one of the wheels. To simplify, we are talking about resetting the wheel.

In fact, of course, everything is much more complicated, and Curiosity does not have any originally laid down mechanism for this.

So, each rover wheel has 19 lugs. Tests have shown that the wheel remains functional even if 13 of them are broken. That is, only with damage to 14 lugs, if there are no special nuances, JPL will consider the need for some action. According to scientists, this will not happen until 2034, and whether the rover will live to see this is a big question.

tests on earth

Be that as it may, there is already a solution, and it was investigated on Earth. The bottom line is that tests have shown that lugs almost always break primarily on the inside of the wheel. More specifically, the outer third of the wheel receives much less damage, since it contains the stiffener and is supported by the hub. The idea of ​​the scientists is that when the critical amount of damage is reached, the wheel can be specially loaded in such a way that it finally burst along the border of the same stiffener – that is, the inner part of the wheel is completely disconnected from the outer one. After that, all that remains is to reset this part. At the same time, the rover will remain operational.

Scientists have even worked out the appropriate maneuver: hitting a stone and turning the wheel as needed. Of course, the process is much more complicated, and takes two to three months, in addition, it requires a stone of a certain configuration.

As for the Perseverance rover, its wheels were developed taking into account the experience of its predecessor. They are stiffer, with more lugs and less spacing.

If necessary, the Curiosity rover will be able to throw off part of the wheel to move on.

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