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It’s a sad lonely world for a space craft. You’re sent deep into space beyond foreign worlds and forced to survive with little to no human assistance at all. For the Mars Curiosity Rover, it has lived on the Red Planet like this for nearly five years. And the little thing’s still plodding along.
But it’s finally beginning to show its age.
A routine check of the Rover’s exterior performed earlier this month revealed that the left-middle wheel is taking quite a beating. Images were beamed back from the explorer this week, and tweeted via the Rover’s personal Twitter account.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) March 21, 2017
Long story short, the little guy is all alone with no one to fix it.
But that’s not where the story ends. In fact, the Rover is well ahead of its scheduled plan in terms of mileage. It’s currently investigating sand dunes on the planet’s surface around Mars’ Mount Sharp. There’s no telling when or where the mission will end.
Mars Curiosity Rover has called the planet home since August 2012, and has travelled over 15km across the planet’s surface
NASA has confirmed that the Rover should theoretically live through its planned itinerary.
“All six wheels have more than enough working lifespan remaining to get the vehicle to all destinations planned for the mission,” Jim Erickson, the project manager at NASA’s JPL notes.
“While not unexpected, this damage is the first sign that the left middle wheel is nearing a wheel-wear milestone.”
So basically, “no prob” as Rover notes.
Curiosity Rover’s storied legacy
Even if it did come to a halt earlier than expected, the Curiosity Rover has done some remarkable things since it landed on the planet in August 2012.
Originally scheduled to be a two-year mission, Curiosity Rover’s voyage was extended indefinitely about four months after it landed. Since then, it has discovered some notable “organic chemistry” on the planet, and witnessed the passage of Mercury across the face of the Sun — something that no other probe has done previously.
Because space is lonely (but mainly because humans are curious beings) Curiosity will be joined by a new rover launching in 2020, but we’re not too sure if it’ll be lending Curiosity a spare wheel.
Feature image: Curiosity Rover/NASA JPL via Twitter