The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover uses the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover’s arm to check the condition of the wheels at routine intervals. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Curiosity robot has been roaming Mars since 2012 but the planet surface is rough and has taken its toll on the rover’s wheels. Even so, NASA now hopes that it should still manage to climb up Mount Sharp to investigate the rare mineral-rich mountain.

New selfies taken by a camera mounted on a robotic arm reveal that the rugged terrain on Mars is damaging the wheels. The photo shows holes and cracks, which will limit the life span of the robot. But the damage should not stop the robot, according to NASA, not yet anyway,

Curiosity is as big as a car and rolls on six wheels, half a meter (1,6 feet) high and 40 centimeters (16 inches) wide. Each wheel is driven by its own motor and the front and rear pairs of wheels can be controlled from Earth.

Since landing on Mars in August 2012, the robot has traveled a distance of almost 13 kilometers (8 miles). It is now to traverse a rough and rocky area called the Naukluft Plateau. Curiosity arrived at the plateau in early March, after spending a few weeks in the dunes at the foot of Mount Sharp.

The goal is for it to climb higher up the mountain to reach three geologically interesting sites: an area rich in red haematite which is an iron oxide mineral, then an area that appears to be a rich area of clay minerals, and beyond it a sulfate-rich area. Clay minerals formed in the presence of liquid water, and can be a sign of an environment favorable for life. But all of these will testify about Mars’s geological past.

Curiosity Mars Rover Crosses Rugged Plateau