Portrait of an Aging Wheel
This plot maps the increasing amounts of energy needed to spin Spirit's right front wheel drive, which has been showing signs of age. The wheel has now traveled six times farther than its design life. Since Spirit's 126th day on Mars, this wheel has required additional electric current to run at normal speeds, as indicated with blue diamonds on this graph. Efforts to improve the situation by redistributing the lubricant in the wheel with heat and rest were only mildly successful (pink squares). To cope with the condition, rover planners have come up with a creative solution: they will drive the rover backwards using five of six wheels. The sixth wheel will be activated only when the terrain demands it.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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