back to article Curiosity now going BACKWARDS

Putting a nuclear-powered, laser-armed space tank on Mars is one of humanity’s most remarkable achievements, and now we've even figured out how to make it go backwards! Curiosity, the space tank in question, last week shifted into “R” and travelled just over 100 metres in a single day. That's the longest distance the rover has …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Testing

    They didn't test reverse before sending to Mars?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Testing

      "Boldly going forward 'coz we can't find reverse" (Star Trekking).

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Testing

        Damn! Beat me to it!

  2. Gray Ham

    I don't understand why the wheels would sustain less damage when moving in reverse. Can anyone suggest reasons?

    1. Captain DaFt
      Joke

      "I don't understand why the wheels would sustain less damage when moving in reverse."

      Well, obviously, You're now backing away from the bumps instead of driving over them!

      1. Johan Bastiaansen

        Also

        Also, the millage on the vehicle is decreasing instead of increasing. And that will have a positive effect on the trade in value.

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: Also

          Also, the mileage on the vehicle is decreasing instead of increasing.

          Dare I mention Ferris Bueller?

        2. Ralph B

          Re: Also

          > positive effect on the trade in value

          Low mileage. Buyer collects.

    2. Pet Peeve

      @Gray ham

      Maybe there's a loose part rubbing on the wheel that flaps against the wheel when going forward, but rides on top in reverse. I've seen that happen in auto accidents, where the fender is pushed in just the right way and only one direction works without grinding the crap out of the tire.

    3. Number6

      Perhaps there has been cumulative damage to the front suspension over time and it's less able to absorb shocks compared to that at the back.

      It needs to make a call to the AAA (Alien Automobile Association) to see if they can come fix it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I wouldn't bother to ask Quikfit.

    4. the spectacularly refined chap

      I don't understand why the wheels would sustain less damage when moving in reverse. Can anyone suggest reasons?

      The rover's wheels are heavily ribbed, presumably to improve the level of grip. You see from the tracks it leaves behind that those ribs do cut into the surface. It's possible that they have an asymmetric profile - e.g. more sawtoothed shaped than straight up and down, to cut into the surface and provide a positive key. On the other hand if that level of grip isn't needed (or you can switch direction again if you get stuck) running the "saw" backwards may well allow smoother operation and avoid relentlessly cutting into the surface when it isn't needed.

      No actual evidence to support that hypothesis but it seems eminently plausible.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        They're not only ribbed, but they appear to be unidirectional: http://cdn1.sbnation.com/entry_photo_images/5008228/rover_13_large_verge_medium_landscape.jpg

        and

        http://graphics8.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/06/26/curiosity/assets/411-177-leftwheel-after.jpg

        The ribbing doesn't go all the way around: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9d/PIA16134-Mars_Curiosity_Rover_Wheels.jpg

        So perhaps it's a wear thing.

      2. Michael Thibault

        > No actual evidence to support that hypothesis but

        excellent bull-shittin'. Have an upvote!

    5. Wzrd1

      Dust wipes, flaps, etc tend to make dust accumulate in certain ways. Reverse tends to change the way that dust accumulates.

      Drive off road through mud, clean off, then reverse through that same mud. Totally different accumulation.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They put the tyres on backwards :)

    7. NogginTheNog
      Pint

      I don't understand

      I don't understand MANY things in this amazing and surprising universe. Doesn't mean they're not real.

  3. ecofeco Silver badge
    Coat

    If a rover backs up on Mars...

    .. does it make a beep, beep, beep?

    Mine with the Hello Kitty patches. ------------------------------------>>

    1. ecofeco Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: If a rover backs up on Mars...

      ...and immediately banged into a shopping cart.

      Wait, I had the wrong one -------------------------------->>>

    2. ravenviz
      Boffin

      Re: beep, beep, beep

      Only very quietly.

      1. JurassicPark
        Alien

        Re: beep, beep, beep

        If Curiosity reverses on Mars and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

  4. Ole Juul Silver badge

    There's no spare parts shop on Mars

    Now there's an opportunity.

    1. Stephen W Harris

      Re: There's no spare parts shop on Mars

      Amazon Prime... whadya mean the Bezos drone doesn't go that far?

    2. Martin Budden

      Re: There's no spare parts shop on Mars

      Now there's an opportunity

      and also a Spirit, if even more spares are needed.

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Alien

    Puny Humans!!!

    Yeah, let's give the Martians more proof that we are a backward race...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pffft, that's nothing

    The Italian Mars rover will have 5 reverse gears.

    Needed for a faster retreat if something scary comes along...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pffft, that's nothing

      Has the French one got a yellow strip down the middle?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pffft, that's nothing

        Has the French one got a yellow strip down the middle?

        No, but it does come with a white flag...

  7. Daniel B.

    Moonwalking

    So Curiosity is basically moonwalking? Or better said as 'Marswalking'?

  8. Scott Broukell
    Coat

    Question is ......

    What will this action do for the project as a whole, 'going forwards'

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Question is ......

      It means that they can continue operations when Mars is retrograde.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hollow legs

    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/06/26/curiosity/assets/411-177-leftwheel-after.jpg

    Questions that come to mind when I look at that picture.

    Why didn't they route that cable bundle through the (presumably) hollow leg? It could be damaged by stones kicking up or by a stone trapped in the wheel.

    The thickness of the wheel metal is not enough to avoid tears and punctures. I wonder if they knew this would happen or not. Did it happen because of unforeseen conditions or did they not test it on Earth sufficiently or some other reason.

    No criticisms should be implied. I'm just curious.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: hollow legs

      Why didn't they route that cable bundle through the (presumably) hollow leg? It could be damaged by stones kicking up or by a stone trapped in the wheel.

      To make it possible to hotwire it. If astronauts finally get there after 2+ years in a rocket it would be damn embarrassing to have forgotten the key. Just theorising...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: hollow legs

      "Why didn't they route that cable bundle through the (presumably) hollow leg? It could be damaged by stones kicking up"

      I can't see there being much shrapnel with Curiosity moving at a rather leisurely 100 metres a day.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: hollow legs

      They anticipated that the wheels would get punctured, but they thought it would happen at a slower rate than they've seen so far.

      Apparently the motors are powerful enough to run with square wheels, although I'd be more worried about loosing the whole wheel.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: hollow legs

        "They anticipated that the wheels would get punctured, ...."

        At the slow speeds it is moving at, were inflatable tyres a sensible choice?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: hollow legs

          Why would Mars rover tyres need to be inflatable? We have run flat and durable hard rubber tyres on earth.

          It's also common practice to remove air from inflatable tyres when venturing off road.

          Curiosity has only travelled 3.5 miles and it's tyres have gaping holes and gashes.

          Presumably NASA would just need to develop a suitable material to withstand extreme cold.

          Is there a vehicle on earth that operates on rough terrain with Aluminium wheels?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are the martians annoyed by...

    ...the BEEEEEP BEEEEEP BEEEEEP sound as it backs up?

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Are the martians annoyed by...

      Yes they were following to see if Captain Black was on board, until it started reversing and they paniced and fled.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was it made in France? (goes in reverse very quickly).

    1. harmjschoonhoven
      Go

      Re: Was it made in France?

      I remember there was a French car (Citroën Traction Avante?) where the custom was to drive up a steep hill in reverse because the transmission of the reverse drive was lower than the first gear.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Was it made in France?

        Reverse is a lower ratio than first in pretty much every car, French or not.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Was it made in France?

          But with front-wheel drive there's additional traction because of more weight on the driving wheels. Also, on a loose surface you want to 'push' the vehicle uphill, so front-wheel drive means going in reverse.

      2. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: Was it made in France?

        Reversing up steep (I mean very steep) hills is standard practice for front wheel drive cars as weight shifts onto the front wheels and you have chance to actually move rather than spin the wheels.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In all seriousness

    Isn't it just possible that they want to be able to backup in the situation where they arrive at a cliff and don't want to drop off it.

    It doesn't say whether they have a man or a woman driving it. Either way you could end up at a dead end due to lack of map reading skills.

  13. Daz555

    On twitter they used the analogy of dragging a suitcase along rather than pushing it. Could it be down to unequal weight disribution? - If it is heavier at the front there is perhaps a chance it rolls smoother in reverse?

  14. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    What a shame someone can't just nip over from Marsbase whenever the NASA Jitney needs a new part or a quick dusting.

    Yep, this "robots, not people" plan is working out and it's a real attention grabber when it comes to motivating the population in all things High Frontier.

  15. cortland

    Headline:

    Curiosity Mars Rover Encounters Reverses!

    Scientists hopeful

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I got to fondle its wheel

    An AIAA sponsored panel with some of the MSL team @ The Proud Bird near(-ly on top of) LAX. They brought some goodies... and a wheel. Bloody heavy it was.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tyres/Tires

    So a long life nuclear power source negated by weight saving Aluminium tyres. Way to go NASA! woop woop.

    I'm still in total awe of the teams working on the other components though, especially the landing mechanism.

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