NASA's Mars 2020 rover just took its first ride, navigating small ramps and rolling back and forth inside a room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in California. Now you are ready for the Red Planet.
"Mars 2020 has earned its driving license," Mars 2020 Mobility Systems Engineer Rich Rieber said in a statement issued by Phys. “The test clearly proved that the rover can operate at its own weight and demonstrated many of the autonomous navigation functions for the first time. This is an important milestone for Mars 2020. ”
"A spacecraft needs to move and Mars 2020 did it yesterday," added John McNamee, Mars 2020 project manager. "We can't wait to get some red Martian dirt under its wheels."
Mars 2020 is much faster than previous NASA rovers in terms of decision making and navigation. Their cameras and image processing computer are also much more sophisticated and of higher resolution.
Thanks to the technological upgrade, the Mars 2020 will be able to move an average of 200 meters per day Martian. The previous day's record set by NASA's Opportunity rover was 214 meters.
The wheels of the Mars 2020 also last longer than those of past rovers. Earlier this year, holes were discovered in NASA's Curiosity wheels after hitting Martian rocks.
The spacecraft will be launched next summer to reach the Red Planet on February 18, 2021. Its main objective will be to look for signs of past microbial life, as well as to take rock samples to bring back to Earth.
Earlier this month, NASA unveiled its Space Launch System, the rocket that will carry the spacecraft to the Red Planet next year. Mars 2020 will not make the journey alone: it will carry a small autonomous helicopter that will help you explore the Martian environment. The drone can also help you look for ideal future landing zones – and maybe even look for signs of life.