At Planetary.org I read this:

Below is a photo of a flight wheel -- that is, one of the six that's sitting on Mars today.

Never heard flight wheel before and couldn't find anything when I searched for the expression. To me it looks like a regular wheel (how regular a wheel that is used on a vehicle on Mars can be).

Edit: and, BTW, I associated to "fly wheel", which seems far fetched and probably isn't correct.

  • Does the image caption not answer this? "A Curiosity wheel before it was attached to the rover and flown to Mars, labeled with all of its component parts." (my emphasis here)
    – Andrew Leach
    Feb 21, 2021 at 9:04
  • You find 'flight' wheels and spokes on some bicycles, scooters, etc; the spokes are flexible and often curved. Often made of carbon fiber/fibre, originally a 1990s brand "Fiber Flight". The Curiosity wheels have curved titanium spokes. Feb 21, 2021 at 9:33

1 Answer 1


A 1996 NASA document (Wheel Abrasion Experiment Metals Selection for Mars Pathfinder Mission) explains the jargon, albeit obliquely:

The final flight hardware was built using three strips of 707 l-T6 aluminum ... A WAE flight wheel is shown in figure 5.

A flight wheel is one fitted for the flight, that is, the final version from development and testing.

  • Yes, I guess in contrast to those used for on-earth testing, which would likely have been stronger. I don't find this to be obvious terminology, partly because I don't think I think of the rover's mission as a "flight". "Mars wheel" or "mission wheel" would be more obvious. Perhaps in NASA's terminology, all phases of a mission are part of the "flight".
    – CCTO
    Feb 21, 2021 at 18:40
  • @CCTO Or "production wheel" as opposed to "prototype wheel".
    – d-b
    Feb 21, 2021 at 19:30

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