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59 votes

Why did the engineers at NASA's JPL put a Morse code on the wheels of Curiosity?

They designed the morse code holes on purpose, and added holes to the wheels in order to let rocks and regolith out of the wheels. The cause of the tearing in the wheels is not attributed to the holes,...
shizuka's user avatar
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48 votes

Planetary rovers - six wheels vs four?

Short answer: More wheels results in greater stability, allowing the rover to traverse more varied types of terrain. It also provides redundancy, in case one of the wheels breaks, the rover is not ...
Phiteros's user avatar
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48 votes
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Can Curiosity pay InSight a visit?

No. Curiosity took 3 years to travel 10 km. There are no plans to visit InSight, Curiosity's mission is to survey Gale Crater and climb Mount Sharp. Curiosity can travel on the order of 100 m/day. ...
Hobbes's user avatar
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40 votes

Is it possible that Curiosity Rover measured its own methane or failed doing the spectrometry?

I am Jose Juan Lopez Moreno, co-I (co-investigator) of TGO-NOMAD and I feel obliged to respond to PearsonArtPhoto's answer. There is something real: TGO carries 2 independent instruments with a ...
José Juan López Moreno's user avatar
37 votes
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Is it possible that Curiosity Rover measured its own methane or failed doing the spectrometry?

There's a lot to unpack here, so let's look at the various discoveries of methane on Mars. The first discovery came from multiple groups in 2003-2004 using first Mars Express, followed by Earth ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
37 votes

Why did the engineers at NASA's JPL put a Morse code on the wheels of Curiosity?

Good answers about the deterioration of the wheels, but no explanation on the purpose of the morse code. The three letters of the code, JPL, stand for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California), ...
Luca Fagioli's user avatar
30 votes
Accepted

Why not a "live" visual connection with Curiosity on Mars all the time?

Why not? Because we can't. We don't have full-time communication with Curiosity: Curiosity sends data to the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey. These are overhead twice a day at 12-hour ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
30 votes

Why exactly does Curiosity's RTG make more electricity on cold days?

There is Carnot's theorem for the theoretical maximum efficiency of heat engines. It is valid not only for mechanical engines like steam engines or Stirling engines but also for solid state devices ...
Uwe's user avatar
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28 votes
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Why does the Curiosity rover camera image resolution have "milliradians" as a unit?

Let's have a look at a more technical and detailed description: https://an.rsl.wustl.edu/help/Content/About%20the%20mission/MSL/Instruments/MSL%20Navcam.htm The Navcam optics are f-theta fisheye ...
asdfex's user avatar
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24 votes
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Does Curiosity pose a radiation hazard for would be colonists?

At first glance, the RTG does not pose a risk. It is powered by Pu-238, which is primarily an alpha emitter throughout its decay chain. Alpha particles can be stopped by a sheet of paper. An ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
24 votes

Is the Curiosity rover equipped with motion detectors?

Most conventional motion detectors wouldn't work well on Mars. PIR: Usually only works well with warm bodies such as humans and animals. Would probably never trigger on Mars Ultrasonic: Due to the ...
Dragongeek's user avatar
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24 votes
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Did the Perseverance and Curiosity skycranes land gently, or did they crash?

It crashed and the aftermath was photographed. https://www.space.com/mars-perseverance-rover-photo-sky-crane-crash A moment of respect for the descent stage. Within two minutes of safely delivering ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
24 votes
Accepted

Why did Spirit (MER-A) lose a wheel?

No explanation has been established for the wheel failure, although a motor brush failure is one possibility. Source: Mars Exploration Rover Spirit End of Mission Report
Organic Marble's user avatar
23 votes

Why is Curiosity not heading for Peace Vallis?

It is actually too likely to find water there. There are 3 categories of Planetary Protection missions for a mission to Mars, IVa, IVb, and IVc. Curiosity meets the IVa criteria, a mission not ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
22 votes

Will Curiosity and the Mars 2020 rover be able to communicate with each other via a Mars orbiter?

Yes, they could theoretically communicate with each other over the DSN, however in practice this will not happen (as it has no current uses). The amount of functions that Curiosity can perform ...
Dragongeek's user avatar
  • 19.2k
22 votes

Why did the engineers at NASA's JPL put a Morse code on the wheels of Curiosity?

To add to Jezero's answer, as is covered in the link provided, the other problem is the structure of Curiosity's suspension. This front "rocker" and the middle section of the suspension (...
Freddie R's user avatar
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21 votes
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How much can the Mars rover Curiosity do autonomously, after four years of operation?

AutoNav is simply given a set of waypoints, which the software then has to, on its own, plan and execute a route. You can imagine the waypoints as lawn darts on the 3D terrain map built from the ...
Mark Adler's user avatar
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21 votes
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Did the Curiosity and Perseverance rover brains do the driving from Earth to Mars?

Yes and no. The no part first: Mars 2020 had sensors and effectors attached to the non-important parts of your diagram, many of which had various degrees of smarts. Star trackers are very ...
David Hammen's user avatar
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18 votes
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If Curiosity had lights, could it drive or work in the evening?

TLDR: The rover is power limited not daylight limited Lights are not sufficient to enable nighttime driving. The rover is limited by available power. The RTG produced ~114 W at the start of the ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
17 votes

Why does the Curiosity rover camera image resolution have "milliradians" as a unit?

When you specify resolution as a linear size, it becomes dependent on how far away the subject is. Curiosity's cameras take photos at varying distances, so you'd have to have a table with resolutions ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
15 votes
Accepted

Why is Curiosity so light compared to Opportunity?

The number is slightly misleading. NASA provides a complete breakdown on the mass. Rover 185 kg Lander 348 kg Almost 2/3rds of the mass that soft landed was in the stand and airbags, only about 1/...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
15 votes

Curiosity and Perseverance landing - with so much dust blown everywhere, what's the point of the skycrane?

because it would prevent the rockets from contaminating the landing site. No they weren't There was some possible advantage from that, to be sure. But missions to Mars undergo serious levels of ...
Graham's user avatar
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14 votes
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What would happen if the Curiosity rover "flipped over"?

This would end the mission, probably immediately. Curiosity comes in at 900 kg mass, so in Martian gravity its weight is ~3340 N. On a hard surface, to right it would require a torque of that weight ...
Tom Spilker's user avatar
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14 votes
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Rock flipping operation

This took a fair bit of investigation! Arm Strength The Mars Science Laboratory Robotic Arm (RA) is 2.2m in length, is made of two arm sections (an upper arm and a forearm) and is controlled by 5 ...
Jack's user avatar
  • 9,966
14 votes

Why did NASA intentionally crash-land the Curiosity and Perseverance sky cranes on Mars?

tl;dr: With technology, anything can potentially go wrong at any moment. Simplify and minimize wherever possible. Keep your eye on the prize. Run away! As soon as the "cord is cut" the crane ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
13 votes
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How much elevation has Mars Curiosity climbed so far from the bottom of Gale crater?

As of Sol 1802, a few days ago, Curiosity was at -4206 m MOLA. It landed at -4501 m MOLA, so the net climb so far is 295 m. Of course, it's gone up and down over that time, so the total amount of ...
Mark Adler's user avatar
  • 58.2k
13 votes

Why exactly does Curiosity's RTG make more electricity on cold days?

All heat engines, whether mechanical or solid state, produce work based on heat flow across a temperature difference. The maximum efficiency of a heat engine depends on how large that difference is.
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,883
12 votes
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Has Curiosity started driving backwards yet?

From the msl mission updates: February 19, 2014 Testing on Earth has shown that driving backward should reduce wear on the front and middle wheels so the Sol 547 drive was the first long, 100 ...
Cornelis's user avatar
  • 7,535

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