“Curiosity is now operating on version 11 of its flight software,” JPL’s Jim Erickson, project manager for the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Project, which operates Curiosity, said in the release.
The upgrade also expands the use of its robotic arm while the rover is on a slope or uneven ground. Version 11, the rover’s third upgrade since landing on Mars 16 months ago, also adds flexibility to the rover’s data storage.
“We want to take a full inventory of the condition of the wheels,” Erickson said. “Dents and holes were anticipated, but the amount of wear appears to have accelerated in the past month or so. It appears to be correlated with driving over rougher terrain. The wheels can sustain significant damage without impairing the rover’s ability to drive. However, we would like to understand the impact that this terrain type has on the wheels, to help with planning future drives.”
At the end of the robotic arm is Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, which it will use in the near future to take photos of its aluminum wheels. Mars’ rough terrain has seemingly taken its toll on the rover’s wheels, so an analysis may help the project managers design an easier route.