Images from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory show their new all-wheel-drive rover.
As NASA counts down the months and days until the start of its next robotic mission to the Red Planet, Space Agency engineers are busy designing and testing the Mars 2020 rover. NASA's new Timelapse shows the latest highlight as the rover can now be supported on its six legs and wheels. The images were taken on October 8, 2019 at the simulator building located at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"After years of design, analysis and testing, it's fantastic to see the rover on your wheels for the first time," says the engineer of Mars 2020 Ben Riggs in a NASA Press Release . "The whole team is looking forward to seeing her in the same configuration of Mars in the not too distant future."
This "not too far" future is definitely creeping closer and closer. The launch will be scheduled for July 2020, by which time the still famous Mars 2020 rover will be launched into the space launcher of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V.
For the landing of Mars due on 1
With its parachute deployed, the input module will scan the surface by taking pictures and analyzing the trajectory. NASA has directed the Jezero Crater on Mars, but if the module deviates from the course or heads to a dangerous location, the descent vehicle will make the necessary adjustments by firing its retro-missiles. All of this will be done autonomously, since it takes more than 20 minutes for signals to and from Mars to pass – NASA engineers will not be able to control the landing themselves. If all goes well, "this will be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration … it is precisely redirecting its landing point during the landing sequence," according to NASA.
Once on the surface, the Mars 2020 Rover will explore the 49-kilometer (30.4 miles) crater of Jezero in search of ancient life. NASA chose this spot because the crater was once filled with water. To get around this dry lake, the 2020 motorcycle will rely heavily on its six aluminum wheels both literally and figuratively.
The wheels are 52.5 centimeters (20.7 inches) in diameter, and their movable surface is covered with lugs called groups that will allow the rover to grip firmly on the Martian surface. Each wheel has its own engine, so if one or two wheels suddenly fail, the rover should still be able to continue moving together. The front and rear wheels also have steering motors that will allow the car to rotate 360 degrees . As an aside, the six wheels currently on the Mars 2020 rover are reserved seats, as the actual mission wheels will not be installed until next year.
The Mars 2020 Rover can also cross steep angles using its "rocker-boogie suspension system". Multiple rotation points and struts will allow the vehicle to maintain a stable weight on each wheel to ensure stability. During the mission, the Mars 2020 team will want to avoid angles steeper than 30 degrees, but if necessary, the rover can withstand 45-degree terrain in any direction without falling. The rover must also be able to cross uneven terrain including rocks and pits equal to the height of its wheels.
The Rover Name Contest closes on November 1, 2019. Students in grades 1 through 12 in US public, private, and home schools can submit their entries here .