Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA has just rolled out their full-scale engineering version of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rove, complete with functional wheels, cameras, and powerful computers to help it navigate autonomously. It passed its first driving test in a warehouse-like room at JPL on Sept. 1, with engineers expecting to take it out next week into the Mars Yard, which is basically a field of red dirt studded with rocks and other obstacles that simulates the Red Planet’s surface. Read more for a video and additional information.
A full-scale engineering version of Perseverance is necessary because the space-bound rover isn’t traveling to Mars with a mechanic, so this Earth-bound vehicle system test bed (VSTB) rover can gauge how hardware and software will perform before they transmit commands to Mars. The main goal is to run a full set of software tests so the team can send up patches while Perseverance is en route to Mars or after it has landed. It’s officially called OPTIMISM, an acronym for Operational Perseverance Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and Instruments Sent to Mars.
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Perseverance’s mobility team can’t wait to finally drive our test rover outside. This is the test robot that comes closest to simulating the actual mission operations Perseverance will experience on Mars – with wheels, eyes, and brains all together – so this rover is going to be especially fun to work with,” said Anais Zarifian, the mobility test bed engineer at JPL.