NASA's next rover to Mars, under construction at JPL, turns its new set of wheels.


Title - Building Curiosity, Mars Science Laboratory

Title - Hot New Rover Wheels!

Title - Dave Gruel. Manager, Assembly, Testing & Launch Ops

Dave Gruel: Hi, my name is Dave Gruel and I lead the team responsible for assembling, testing and launching the next rover to land on the surface of Mars: Curiosity.

The team just recently installed the mobility system onto the sides of the rover: That's the wheels. And there are 6 wheels, 3 on each side. They all have to be verified that the actuators work. And then there are steering actuators, too, which we'll use to actually turn the rover when it's on the surface.

There are ten small little motors that make up that mobility system, and what the team is doing right now is they're going through and making sure that each of those wheels spins forward and backwards and rotates, if necessary, from a steering point of view, so that when the rover gets down to the surface of Mars, it can successfully navigate itself over the rocks and the terrain that are actually there on the surface.

As soon as we finish up the mobility checkout, they'll be putting the mast on the top deck of the rover. And the mast has more cameras and imaging that allows us to take stereo pictures off in the distance of Mars. Just like your eyes work in a stereo pair, this camera will also return us stereo imagery from the surface of Mars.

Once that's complete, then the front deck of the rover, which is empty right now is where we'll put the robotic arm. The robotic arm is a device that reaches out six feet or so, and actually touches the surface, takes samples and then deposits those samples back into the innards of the rover, for the science instruments to analyze and determine what the elemental compositions are on the surface of Mars.

Over here on my left, you'll see the descent stage. The descent stage just went through a test where they actually shook it just like it would experience when it's going through the launch -- and they wanted to make sure that the design held together and that nothing broke and everything was successful with that test too.

This has been your update on the assembly of the Curiosity vehicle. As you can see Curiosity is looking more and more like a rover every day and the team is working hard as we aim for our launch scheduled for November of 2011.

Title - NASA. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. California Institute of Technology
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