NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover Passed Its First Test Drive

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Engineers observed NASA’s Mars 2020 rover in an essential test of the space agency’s next Martian explorer. The rover’s first test drive happened Tuesday inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US city of Pasadena, California.

The test lasted for ten hours, while NASA engineers observed the six-wheeled rover finding no problems at all. Mars 2020 proved its success by performing all inspections, functioning well under its weight on Earth. On Mars, this 1,050 kg machine will have a lighter weight, as the gravity on the red planet is 38% of what it is on our planet.

According to NASA, the “next time the Mars 2020 rover drives, it will be rolling over Martian soil.” The Mars 2020 rover is scheduled to launch in July 2020, its destination being Mars’s Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021. “We can’t wait to put some red Martian dirt under its wheels,” said John McNamee, the project manager for Mars 2020. “A rover needs to rove, and Mars 2020 did that.”

NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover Passed Its First Test Drive

The Mars 2020 vehicle has a Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) incorporated- which worked well during the test, according to the engineers. This instrument uses radar waves to scan the ground immediately below. RIMFAX will penetrate the soil to depths exceeding 10 meters, depending on the materials underneath, once on Mars.

Mars 2020 rover is equipped with advanced auto-navigation software making it more independent than any of its predecessors. The onboard computer will collect high-resolution, wide-field color cameras data.

The rover is expected to travel around 200 meters per day, as its wheels are designed to be more durable. Once the rover gets to the final destination, it will start exploring the former lake bed for any earlier signs of life, as well as to study the red planet’s geology and climate, to collect and depositing samples. The Mars 2020 won’t be alone as Mars Helicopter Scout will be its partner in crime.

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