Mars 2020 passes its driving test: ‘A rover needs to rove’

Space Science
Mars 2020 rover

The Mars 2020 rover performs maneuvers during a test drive.(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

MYSTERY WIRE — The first and only test drive of the Mars 2020 rover went off smoothly at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Cal-Tech.

“A rover needs to rove, and Mars 2020 did that yesterday” John McNamee, Mars 2020 project manager, said in a statement released on Dec. 18. “We can’t wait to put some red Martian dirt under its wheels.”

In a 10-plus-hour marathon, the rover steered, turned and drove in 3-foot increments over small ramps covered with special static-control mats.

It’s not exactly doing donuts in the parking lot, but it showed engineers it can handle Earth’s gravity easily. That means Mars will pose no problem, since the Red Planet’s gravity is only three-eighths as strong.

Engineers said the rover passed its first driving test, going forward and backward before performing a pirouette in the JPS “clean room” in Pasadena, California. They called it a major milestone for the rover.

The rover is scheduled to launch in July or August of 2020, and land in the Jezero Crater on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

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