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06.20.2014

'Scarecrow' Rover Goes Off-Roading in Dumont Dunes

To understand Mars rover Curiosity's wheel constraints, JPL engineers test the Scarecrow rover's driving skills on desert sand dunes.

Practice Drives in Sand Dunes

Practice Drives in Sand Dunes 

Curiosity's test vehicle for driving, Scarecrow, gets down and dirty out in the Dumont Dunes in California's Mojave Desert, near Death Valley. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Curiosity’s Stunt Double

Curiosity’s Stunt Double 

Scarecrow has a full-size version of Curiosity's wheels and other driving equipment, but doesn't have the "brains." Engineers use it to test drive on different types of terrain. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Mount Sharp

Mount Sharp 

Curiosity is working it's way up Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high mountain which scientists call "the Promised Land." The base of Mount Sharp, has a variety of rocks and minerals stacked in layers. Each layer could tell us a story about what the environment was like when the layer formed as well as any changes through time. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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Wheel Wear Along the Way

Wheel Wear Along the Way 

Getting to Mount Sharp was a priority, but Curiosity had to adjust her driving to compensate for some wheel "wear and tear" that engineers did not expect early into the mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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Seeking Soft Patches of Soil

Seeking Soft Patches of Soil 

Sharp, pointy rocks forced the team to seek soft patches of sandy Martian soil. In this image, you see a small sand dune called the "Dingo Gap," which Curiosity crossed to avoid sharp rocks. Curiosity had to drive over soft sandy areas on her way to Mount Sharp. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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Using Scarecrow to Practice Driving

Using Scarecrow to Practice Driving 

Back on Earth, engineers scoured the Dumont Dunes area and found the best spot to practice driving with the Scarecrow rover over dunes like those Curiosity found on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Mars on Earth

Mars on Earth 

The sand dunes on Earth resemble those on Mars. This image shows engineers seeking out the best place to test-drive Curiosity’s "cousin," Scarecrow. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Desolate Landscape

Desolate Landscape 

Scientist Rob Sullivan explores the Dumont Dunes area, on the hunt for the best place to test drive the Scarecrow rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Replicating Martian Dunes

Replicating Martian Dunes 

Amanda Steffy and Rob Sullivan help shape a course of sand ripples for the Scarecrow rover to drive over. On Mars, the Curiosity rover crossed similar sand ripples on its way to Mount Sharp. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Driving Over Sandy Ripples

Driving Over Sandy Ripples 

Engineers test the rover’s driving skills on soft sand ripples in this latest desert-driving trip on June 5, 2014. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Dunes Obstacle Course

Dunes Obstacle Course 

Despite the challenge of loose, sandy soil, the Scarecrow rover drove over the obstacle course without a hitch! Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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The Long Road Ahead

The Long Road Ahead 

Driving over sand dunes may make for longer duration drives. The team wants to avoid getting stuck in the sand, so going slow is sometimes good and practicing comes in handy. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Going Back to Move Forward

Going Back to Move Forward 

Frequently, Curiosity drives backwards to limit the wear and tear on the damaged middle and front wheels. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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No Easy Roads

No Easy Roads 

On Mars, there are no roads to point the way. The team and rover have to carve their own path. Even though "Mars is Hard" and continues to surprise us, we scale higher on our way up Mount Sharp with each "step" or wheel revolution Curiosity takes. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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