The NASA Mars 2020 Rover will have to operate alone in a harsh environment, one hundred million miles from the nearest mechanic. But so far, it's still being developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory – and every major moment is important. Including keeping its own weight, fully assembled and resting on its own six wheels, this is what the rover manages this week.
This stand test is one of many that the rover goes through, including testing its nuclear power engine, its ability to move its wheels, its sensor arrays and navigation systems. The six-wheeled robotic exploration platform is ready for its planned launch in July 2020, which will send it to the Red Planet to fulfill and extend the mission of the Curiosity rover .
Curiosity launched in 2011 and landed on Mars in August 2012. This earlier engine was designed for a two-year mission but received an unlimited mission extension in 2012 and is still operational after switching computers earlier this year after the crash – seven years after its initial landing.
The Mars 2020 Rover has received a number of enhancements to Curiosity that you would probably expect, given that the team developing the newer rover has the benefit of years of experience managing a robotic rover platform on Mars. Mars 2020 features improvements such as improved environmental resilience and will carry a variety of research equipment to complement Curiosity's capabilities.