Next Mars Rover Sports a Set of New Wheels

Jul 01, 2010
Mars rover Curiosity, the centerpiece of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, is coming together for extensive testing prior to its late 2011 launch. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity, is sitting pretty on a set of spiffy new wheels that would be the envy of any car show on Earth.

The wheels and a suspension system were added this week by spacecraft technicians and engineers. These new and important touches are a key step in assembling and testing the flight system in advance of a planned 2011 launch.

Curiosity, centerpiece of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, is a six-wheeler and uses a rocker-bogie suspension system like its smaller predecessors: Spirit, Opportunity and Sojourner. Each wheel has its own drive motor, and the corner wheels also have independent steering motors. Unlike earlier , Curiosity will also use its mobility system as a landing gear when the mission's rocket-powered descent stage lowers the rover directly onto the on a tether in August 2012.

In coming months at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the mobility system will get functional testing and be part of environmental testing of the rover. The mobility system will now stay on Curiosity through launch unless testing identifies a need for rework that would require it to be disassembled.

With the wheels and suspension system already installed onto one side of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity the previous day, spacecraft engineers and technicians prepare the other side's mobility subsystem for installation on June 29, 2010. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The mission will launch from Florida during the period Nov. 25 to Dec. 18, 2011. Curiosity will examine an area of for modern or ancient habitable environments, including any that may have also been favorable for preserving clues about life and environment, though this mission will not seek evidence of life. It will examine rocks, soil and atmosphere with a diverse payload of tools, including a laser to vaporize patches of rock from a distance and an instrument designed to test for .

Explore further: NASA team lays plans to observe new worlds

More information: marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/m… ractives/photosynth/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Dryden Hosts Radar Tests for Next Mars Landing

Jun 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Engineers with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are running diverse trials with a test version of the radar system that will enable NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission ...

Heat Shield Readied for Next Mars Rover

Jul 10, 2009

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, has finished building and testing the heat shield for protecting the Curiosity rover of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project. This heat shield is even larger than the ...

Recommended for you

Heat testing the miniature Aausat 4 satellite

13 hours ago

The miniature Aausat satellite undergoes repeated temperature variations in a vacuum chamber, cooling the CubeSat to –10°C and heating it to +45°C for more than two weeks. This harsh baptism will make ...

New meteor shower "just a memory" of what once was there

14 hours ago

The weak display of last month's Camelopardalids meteor shower, the result of the close passage of comet 209P/LINEAR, may have disappointed backyard observers, but this never-before-seen shower now has scientists ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Ravenrant
not rated yet Jul 02, 2010
What is it with these idiots and their fixation with small wheels? Who designs these things? Even our toy manufacturers could design better rovers.
nanotech_republika_pl
not rated yet Jul 02, 2010
The small wheels remind me Lunokhod created by Russians in 70s.