NASA’s latest Mars rover, aptly named Mars 2020 has completed its first ever test driving test half a year after initially receiving its one-of-a-kind wheels. The test drive was conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, with the rover performing tasks like rolling forward, backwards, and completing a 360° spin according to a press release from the space agency.
Lead mobility systems engineer for Mars 2020, Rick Rieber said in a statement: “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.”
The tests filled Mars 2020’s ground team with confidence that the rover will perform as well on Mars as it performed on Earth. This is because Earth has much stronger gravity than Mars, so if the rover is able to perform tasks like spinning around and climbing hills on Earth, it should have no problem doing the same thing on a planet will less gravity.
— J e n n a 🎄 (@Science2_Space) December 19, 2019
Mars 2020 is slated as being NASA’s most advanced rover. It features higher-resolution, wide field-of-views colour cameras for navigation, as well as having improved auto-navigation software and an extra computer “brain” to make maps and process images.
NASA are hoping these improvements will allow the rover to travel about 200 meters a day on average. All while collecting valuable data about the big red planet.
Mars 2020 is scheduled to launch in August of 2020, with its main missions including the search for microbial life, characterising the planet’s geology and climate to help prepare for human exploration of Mars.
Feature image: Twitter/@NASA