The engineers of the Mars 2020 mission published new data on the preparation of the rover to fly to the Red Planet next year. Recently, the rover had wheels installed; then, they informed that the rover stood on its legs and wheels for the first time, and now it has passed its first driving test successfully.
In a video published by the agency, a massive rover passes its inaugural test – it was able to roll back and forth, cross a small obstacle course and complete spin on itself in a limited space at the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California (United States). It is especially interesting to watch the reaction of the developers.
The descent module is equipped with higher-resolution, wide-field-of-view color navigation cameras, an extra computer “brain” for processing images and making maps, and more sophisticated auto-navigation software. It also has wheels that have been redesigned for added durability.
It is planned that the Mars 2020 rover, along with the rest of its equipment, will go to Mars in July next and will land to the planet on February 18, 2021. On the Red Planet, the rover will be responsible for looking for signs of microbial life and collecting samples from the Jesero Crater, which will be recovered later by another mission.
But to do this, the Mars 2020 rover will have to cover short distances, so its navigation system is carefully checked. Tastings of all running and navigation systems of the rover lasted about ten hours. In the video, the engineers showed the main points of the experiment, where it can be seen how the device moves on a flat surface, climbs to a slight elevation, and turns around.
“Mars 2020 has earned its driver’s license,” said Rich Rieber, the lead mobility systems engineer for Mars 2020, in a release. “The test unambiguously proved that the rover could operate under its own weight and demonstrated many of the autonomous-navigation functions for the first time. This is a major milestone for Mars 2020.“