Just like I inspect the bottom of my hiking boots from time to time, NASA’s Curiosity rover schedules in regular check-ups of its wheel treads. Mars hasn’t been kind to the rover’s aluminum wheels, which have taken a serious beating from rocks since it started exploring Gale Crater in 2012.
Curiosity snapped some fresh looks at its kicks in late January, and the views led to some concerned social media discussions (and some humorous ones) about the state of the wheels and what it means for the rover’s ability to rove. Good news: Curiosity is doing OK.
The wheel image that attracted the most attention is quite a looker. It shows multiple holes and broken grousers (raised treads), cracks and bent metal. If your car tire looked like that, you’d be breaking out the jack and the spare. But the wheel issues have been known for a long time and the Curiosity team already implemented mitigation measures to extend their life.