Curiosity’s first drive on Mars

August 23, 2012 • 12:18 pm

NASA took the Mars rover Curiosity for a test drive yesterday. This short video shows the results. Right now they’re at the initial checking-stuff-out stage, so the rover moved only a few meters. But everything appears to be copacetic.

Here’s a screenshot from the video showing its tracks.

The video also includes an animation of Curiosity’s short jaunt. Another piece in The Atlantic, which also describes the drive, shows a bit of whimsy on the part of Curiosity’s designers: the tires are shaped to leave three imprints in Morse Code:

. – – –
. – – .
. – . .

Those letters spell out “JPL,” for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.  For scientists, that’s high humor, for it’s nothing decipherable by aliens.

Here’s a Morse-code tire:

8 thoughts on “Curiosity’s first drive on Mars

  1. How many prayers were required to allow us to DRIVE AN EXPLORATION VEHICLE ON THE SURFACE OF ANOTHER PLANET?
    Let’s hear it for Frank Bacon : those individual rashers of logic sure do form a giant pile after a time. You can see a long way standing on such a pile.

  2. I think the letters in the tire tread is a great idea. If Curiosity spies a set of tire tracks, it would be nice to know who made them.

      1. I watched a press conference in which that question was posed and answered. The answer was based on prior rovers, and dependent on the wind and dust an area receives but, I think it was generally around a month.

  3. NASA missed a trick ~ they should have a chat with Pirelli Tyres about a marketing deal. Besides their world-famous & beloved calender there’s also the Pirelli International Award for the best multimedia presentations focussing on themes involving the diffusion of science and technology

  4. Is it me, or do the animations appear much more ‘real’ and exciting than the actual pictures?

    Some cognitive quirk about seeking and constructing narratives perhaps?

    Quirk or not, well done NASA.

    1. In the animation Curiosity moves forward 3.6 metres** in 5 seconds which is an apparent average speed of 2,600 m/hr. However in ideal conditions Curiosity is capable of moving at only a top speed of 90 m/hr. Thus the animation is at least 30 times faster than real life

      The animation also exhibits realistic dynamics in the Rocker-Bogie suspension arrangement of the six wheels & the way the wheels bob up & down & the rover body judders in sympathy to the wheel bounce

      These two factors together make the animation far more real than real life. Any Martian watching the manoeuvre would be thinking about paint drying or grass growing perhaps…

      ** 4.5m minus 0.9m

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