Home Science Mars 2020 Stands on Its Own Six Wheels

Mars 2020 Stands on Its Own Six Wheels


This
time-lapse video, taken on Oct. 8, 2019, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, California, captures the first time NASA’s Mars 2020 rover has carried
its full weight on its legs and wheels.

“After
years of design, analysis and testing, it is fantastic to see the rover on her wheels
for the first time,” said Ben Riggs, a mechanical systems engineer working
on Mars 2020 at JPL. “The whole team looks forward to seeing her in the
same configuration on Mars in the not too distant future.”

The rover’s legs (the black tubing visible above the wheels) are
composed of titanium, while the wheels are made of aluminum. Measuring 20.7 inches (52.5 centimeters)
in diameter and machined with traction-providing cleats, or grousers, the
wheels are engineering models that will be replaced with flight models next
year. Every wheel has its own motor. The two front and two rear wheels also
have individual steering motors that enable the vehicle to turn a full 360
degrees in place.

When driving over uneven terrain, the rover’s “rocker-bogie”
suspension system – called that because of its multiple pivot points and struts
– maintains a relatively constant weight on each wheel for stability. Rover
drivers avoid terrain that would cause the vehicle to tilt more than 30
degrees, but even so, the rover can handle a 45-degree tilt in any direction
without tipping over. It can also roll over obstacles and through depressions
the size of its wheels.

The Mars 2020 rover was photographed in the Simulator
Building at JPL, where it underwent weeks of testing, including an extensive evaluation
of how its instruments, systems and subsystems operate in the frigid, near-vacuum
environment it will face on Mars.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover
for NASA. The rover will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July
2020 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch
Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible
for launch management.

When the rover lands atJezero Crateron Feb. 18, 2021, it will be the first spacecraft in the history
of planetary exploration with the ability to accurately retarget its point of touchdown
during the landing sequence.

Charged with returning astronauts
to the Moon by 2024, NASA’s Artemislunar exploration planswill establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon
by 2028. We will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare to send astronauts to
Mars.

Interested K-12 students in
U.S. public, private and home schools have one more week to enter the Mars 2020
Name the Rover essay contest. One grand prize winner will name the rover. The
contest closes Nov. 1, 2019.

For more information about
the name contest, go to:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/name-the-rover/

For more information about
the mission, go to:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

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