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Wheel Abrasion Experiment (WAE)


Mission Name: Mars Pathfinder Rover


The Mars Pathfinder Rover Wheel Abrasion Experiment was designed to study the abrasive wear of the martian soil on various types of metals attached to one of the rover wheels. The experiment consists of thin (200 - 1000 angstrom) films of aluminum, nickel, and platinum over black anodized aluminum strips attached to the center of the tread of the middle left rover wheel. Film reflectivity was measured over time by a photovoltaic sensor. Changes in reflectivity indicate the amount of abrasion on the different films due to rolling wear. At times all other wheels were locked and only the abrasion wheel was spin in the regolith, providing a test of wear under harsher conditions. Wear characteristics indicate the types of soils encountered by the rover wheels. This information, combined with terrestrial ground simulations, may allow a determination of the types of materials comprising the martian regolith.

Alternate Names

  • MarsPathfinderRover/WAE
  • WAE

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science (United States)


  • Planetary Science: Geology and Geophysics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this experiment can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Dale C. FergusonGeneral

Selected References

  • The Rover Team, The Pathfinder microrover, J. Geophys. Res., 102, No. E2, 3989-4001, doi:10.1029/96JE01922, Feb. 1997.
  • Ferguson, D. C., et al., Evidence for Martian electrostatic charging and abrasive wheel wear from the Wheel Abrasion Experiment on the Pathfinder Sojourner rover, J. Geophys. Res., 104, No. E4, 8747-8789, doi:10.1029/98JE02249, Apr. 1999.
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