The Mars 2020 rover for the first time moved on its own

The next generation Mars rover Mars 2020 successfully completed the test, during which he made his first independent trip. The tests were conducted on December 17, 2019 in the cleanroom of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, and the rover completed them by successfully placing positive marks near all points of the test program. And the next time the Mars 2020 rover launches its propulsion engines, its wheels will already be on the surface of the Red Planet.

“Mars 2020 has just received its driver’s license,” says Rich Rieber, Lead Engine Systems Engineer. “Tests have shown that the rover system can handle its own weight, and the navigation system correctly performs all the necessary functions. the first test is one of the main stages of the implementation of the Mars 2020 program”.

Mars Rover 2020

The main task of the Mars 2020 mission, the launch of which is scheduled for July-August 2020, is the search for traces of microbiological life, the study of the climate and geology of Mars. In addition, the Mars 2020 rover will collect samples that will be returned to Earth during the next Martian missions. According to a decision made by NASA leadership, the rover will land on February 18, 2021 in the area of ​​the Jezero Crater, and this will all be aimed at providing research on the Red Planet with future manned missions.

The intelligent control system of the Mars 2020 Mars rover is designed to provide greater freedom in making its own decisions than the systems of the Mars rovers of previous generations. To supply this system with all the necessary data, the rover is equipped with high-quality color navigation cameras, an additional coprocessor for real-time image processing, and more sophisticated navigation software. The design of the wheels of the Mars 2020 Mars rover took into account all the shortcomings that were manifested in the design of the wheels of the Curiosity rover.

All of the above modifications and additions will allow the Mars 2020 rover to cover an average distance of 200 meters in one Martian day (Sol). For reference, the longest movement made in one Sol is 214 meters to date, according to official Curiosity mission data.

Let us return to the first sea trials of the Mars 2020 rover. These 10-hour trials showed the “friendly” operation of all the systems involved in this, which ensured the movement of the device with 1-meter “runs” along a complex system of special ramps. The excellent performance of all these systems in terrestrial gravity allows NASA engineers and management to hope that these systems will also work well in lower Martian gravity. In addition to all this, the rover during the tests was able to collect data using the radar unit RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment).

“The Mars 2020 rover must be able to move first and foremost, which we checked this week”, says John McNamee, one of the Mars 2020 project managers, “and now we can only wait for the wheels of the rover to touch the reddish dirt Martian surface”.