Curiosity has a secret

Hint: the wheels have ‘randomly’ placed holes …

Mars Curiosity is quite a machine, a lander, rover, mobile chemical laboratory and robot geologist. But its designers were human, so hidden in the wheels is a geeky tech-y joke. What is it?

Tech Rep— Curiosity’s wheels are multifunction. Their primary use case–obviously–is locomotion. However, NASA uses visual evidence to estimate distances and scales on Mars, so Curiosity’s wheel tracks are designed to aid in this effort. A series of irregular holes placed in each of Curiosity’s six wheels create a repeating pattern as the rover drives across the Martian desert.

Every time Curiosity’s wheels complete a revolution, they print the Morse Code for JPL on the Martian surface in honor of Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which oversees the Mars Science Laboratory project.


  1. anubisprime says

    Brilliant…I thought the tread pattern was distinctly marked.
    And it makes sense to have a visual odometer.
    And why not use every inch of the available machine for science research.

  2. The Lorax says

    It’s adorable and I fully approve of it, but I wonder how effective it will really be. Even HIRISE the Glorious (yes, it deserves a title by this point) won’t be able to resolve details that small, so they’d have to take the pictures with the cameras on the rover, which means (due to perspective) they’ll only be useful over the last few feet (maybe 50 or so?). Plus, they’ll have to deal with soft sand that’s constantly being shifted by winds (I’d say dust storms as well, but if one of those happened, MSL would have bigger things to worry about).

    Oh well. I’m sure those clever girls and boys at JPL will find a hundred and one uses for having bemorsecoded treads.

  3. StevoR says

    Now if only they’d chosen to land it on our moon, those tyre tracks would be immortal.

    Of course that means the parachite for landing wouldn’t have worked quioter so well .. ;-)


    “This is surreal, how each grain of moondust falls into place in these little fans, almost like rose petals.”
    – Buzz Aldrin (during his first Moonwalk July 1969), Page 38, ‘Magnificent Desolation’, B. Aldrin, Bloomsbury, 2009.

  4. StevoR says

    Aaaarrrrgh! Typos. Make that :

    Of course, that means the parachute for landing wouldn’t have worked quite so well .. ;-)


    (For clarity.)

  5. F says

    That’s really pretty cool.

    I thought, though, that you were going to say that Curiosity had smuggled a golf club and balls to Mars.

  6. davejohnson says

    5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

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