Trivia

Hard

What Subtle Message Does Mars Rover Curiosity’s Wheels Leave Behind?

(CES) Carl Edward Sagan
(RDB) Ray Douglas Bradbury
(JPL) Jet Propulsion Lab
(NASA) National Aeronautics and Space Administration
A close-up view of the Morse code tread on one of the Curiosity rover's wheels.
NASA

Answer: (JPL) Jet Propulsion Lab

When NASA’s Curiosity rover rolls quietly across the Martian plains, it leaves behind a very subtle calling card that points back to its birthplace tens of millions of miles away. Across the 14.27 miles (22.97 kilometers) of terrain it has slowly rolled over so far, taking samples and photographs along the way, it’s left tracks in the soil tracing its path back to the start of its journey at the Bradbury Landing site inside the Gale crater.

Most of the tread on the rover’s wheels is a simple but effective zig-zag (chevron) pattern designed to provide a long lasting tread with good purchasing power on the dry and loose Martian soil. The whole wheel doesn’t have the same tread, however, a small segment of each wheel tread is devoted to a series of cutouts. The pattern of the cutouts ” .— / .–. / .-.. ” spells out the initials of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory via Morse code—JPL. As the rover explores Mars, it imprints the letters in the soil, leaving a subtle nod to its birthplace wherever it goes.

While the markings might be part vanity project, they also serve a useful function. When the onboard cameras examine the tread pattern left by the wheels, the different pattern introduced by the Morse code offers a sense of scale researchers can use as a reference to show distance, even if the terrain in the photograph is featureless.

Trivia

Hard

A Canadian Environmental Group Encouraged People To Bury What In Their Gardens To Test Soil Quality?

Trivia

Hard

Modern Arcade Games Evolved From Which Unlikely Ancestor?

Trivia

Easy

Food Allergies Are An Inflammatory Reaction To What Compound In The Food?

Trivia

Very Hard

Which Of These Horror Writers Only Achieved Fame Posthumously?

Trivia

Hard

The Last Console Released In The Game Boy Lineup Was The?

Trivia

Hard

When You Rub Your Eyes And See Stars, You’re Seeing What?

Trivia

Hard

Collaboration Between Legendary Performers Michael Jackson And Freddie Mercury Was Thwarted By?

Trivia

Hard

Which Fictitious Drug Is Used By Researchers To Assess Participant Honesty?

Trivia

Hard

The First Piece Of Apparel To Bear A Company Logo Was A?

Trivia

Very Hard

The Term “Slush Fund” Has Its Origins In?