The 1-ton Mars rover “Curiosity” robot has accumulated quite a bit of wheel damage since touching down inside Gale Crater in August 2012 to investigate Mars’ past and present potential to host microbial life.
“They are taking damage. That’s the surprise we got back at the end of last year,” said Jim Erickson, Curiosity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We always expected we would get some holes in the wheels as we drove. It’s just the magnitude of what we’re seeing that was the surprise.”
Curiosity has been on Mars for almost 2 years. This is when you would expect the rover to begin wearing. NASA has a reputation for squeezing every bit of life out of probes like this, and Curiosity probably has a decent lifetime ahead of it, but it’s already been on Mars longer than the primary planned mission time.