NASA is putting its Mars 2020 rover to work without leaving Earth.
The rover is expected to launch next summer and reach the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater in February 2021. But before it’s sent into space to collect samples and study Mars, engineers are testing it to make sure it’s ready.
A crucial part of the rover is the arm and turret, which must work together to simulate a geologist examining and collecting interesting features on Mars.
In preparation, engineers placed 88 pounds worth of sensor-laden turret onto the rover’s 7-foot-long arm on July 19 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Spacecraft Assembly Facility in Pasadena, California. The result: a robotic arm performing a bicep curl as it moved from a deployed to a stowed configuration.
The rover’s arm includes five electrical motors and five joints, and its turret will include cameras, a life-detection instrument known as SHERLOC, a chemical element detector and a percussive drill and coring mechanism, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“This was our first opportunity to watch the arm and turret move in concert with each other, making sure that everything worked as advertised — nothing blocking or otherwise hindering smooth operation of the system,” Dave Levine, integration engineer for Mars 2020, said in a statement.
“Standing there, watching the arm and turret go through their motions, you can’t help but marvel that the rover will be in space in less than a year from now and performing these exact movements on Mars in less than two.”
Those who are interested in the expedition can also submit a name for the Mars 2020 rover.