hiddenDec 22, 2013 17:50:10 IST
Washington: Nasa engineers have given Marsrover Curiosity a software upgrade and are now checking wearand tear on the one-tonne robot's wheels caused by the ruggedMartian surface.The wheels of Curiosity rover are sustaining damage at anincreasing rate, Nasa said."Curiosity is now operating on version 11 of its flightsoftware," said Jim Erickson of Nasa's Jet PropulsionLaboratory.
This is the third upgrade version since Curiosity'slanding on Mars 16 months ago. Completing the switch fromversion 10 took about a week, Nasa said.An earlier switch to version 11 prompted an unintendedreboot on November 7 and a return to version 10, but thelatest transition went smoothly.
These upgrades allow continued advances in the rover'scapabilities. For example, version 11 brings expandedcapability for using the Curiosity's robotic arm while thevehicle is on slopes.It also improves flexibility for storing informationovernight to use in resuming autonomous driving on a secondday.
An upcoming activity will be driving to a relativelysmooth patch of ground to take a set of images of Curiosity'saluminium wheels, using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)camera at the end of the rover's arm."We want to take a full inventory of the condition of thewheels. Dents and holes were anticipated, but the amount ofwear appears to have accelerated in the past month or so,"Erickson said.
"It appears to be correlated with driving over rougherterrain. The wheels can sustain significant damage withoutimpairing the rover's ability to drive. However, we would liketo understand the impact that this terrain type has on thewheels, to help with planning future drives," said Erickson. Curiosity's recent driving has crossed an area that hasnumerous sharp rocks embedded in the ground.
Routes to future destinations for the mission may becharted to lessen the amount of travel over such roughterrain, compared to smoother ground nearby. Nasa'sMars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosityinside Gale Crater to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions.
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