Video: NASA's 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.
 Video: NASA's Mars 2020 Stands on Its Own Six 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 at Jezero Crater on 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 Artemis lunar exploration plans will 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.

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Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission by NASA's Mars Exploration Program with a planned launch on 17 July 2020, and touch down in Jezero crater on Mars on 18 February 2021. It will investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars and investigate its surface geological processes and history, including the assessment of its past habitability, the possibility of past life on Mars, and the potential for preservation of biosignatures within accessible geological materials.It will cache sample containers along its route for a potential future Mars sample-return mission.

The currently unnamed Mars 2020 mission was announced by NASA on 4 December 2012 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The rover's design is derived from the Curiosity rover, and will use many components already fabricated and tested, new scientific instruments and a core drill. It will also carry a helicopter drone.

NASA announced in June 2019 that a student naming contest will be held in fall of 2019 to determine the name of the rover.

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