Is it Time for NASA’s Curiosity Rover to Retire?

Nothing last’s forever, and that goes for NASA’s equipment too. As fantastic as the Curiosity Rover’s been over the past five years, after spending half a decade on the desolate surface of Mars, it’s finally starting to take its toll, and the machine is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Just last week the space agency announced that two small breaks had emerged on the left middle wheel if the rover, but was to be expected as part of the wheel’s life cycle.

It just reiterates my point that nothing lasts forever. Curiosity Project Manager, Jim Erickson, said above the discovery, “All six wheels have more than enough working lifespan remaining to get the vehicle to all destinations planned for the mission, While not unexpected, this damage is the first sign that the left middle wheel is nearing a wheel-wear milestone.” The wheels in question are made of solid aluminum and are 20 inches in diameter. Each one is specifically designed for the task at hand which includes the raised treads allow for easy maneuvering over rocky terrain and the fully supported structure that bears most of the rover’s weight.

“The monitoring of wheel damage on Curiosity, plus a program of wheel-longevity testing on Earth, was initiated after dents and holes in the wheels were seen to be accumulating faster than anticipated in 2013. Testing showed that at the point when three grousers on a wheel have broken, that wheels had reached about 60 percent of its useful life. Curiosity already has driven well over that fraction of the total distance needed for reaching the key regions of scientific interest on Mars’ Mount Sharp,” NASA said in a statement. So it seems there is a lot more exploration left in Curiosity yet before it’s ready to retire.

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