Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s Mars 2020 rover has passed its first driving test as it rolled forward / backward and pirouetted in a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The next time this rover drives, it will be rolling on Martian soil. The mission is scheduled to launch in July or August 2020 and will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize Mars’ climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. Read more for a video and additional information.
Mars 2020 is scheduled to land in an area of Mars known as Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. The rover is designed to make more driving decisions for itself than any previous rover, thanks to a 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.
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Mars 2020 has earned its driver’s license. The test unambiguously proved that the rover can 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,” said Rich Rieber, the lead mobility systems engineer for Mars 2020.