You really wouldn’t want to send a rover all the way to Mars only then to discover it had an issue.
That’s why NASA has been putting its Mars 2020 rover, called Perseverance, through its paces ahead of its much-anticipated launch to the red planet just two months from now.
A video (below) released by NASA on Monday shows the robotic vehicle undergoing some of the thousands of tests that it’s been put through, each one designed to reveal any potential problems.
“The Perseverance Mars rover is one of a kind, and the testing required to get it ready to roll on the mean (and unpaved) streets of the red planet is one of a kind as well,” NASA said on its website. “Because hardware cannot be repaired once the rover is on Mars, the team has to build a vehicle that can survive for years on a planet with punishing temperature shifts, constant radiation, and ever-present dust.”
Check out the drive test for an example of just how meticulous the team has to be to ensure everything is working perfectly. At least nine engineers get up close to watch carefully as the rover edges forward on its six wheels.
In another test, Perseverance was subjected to severe shaking to ensure that nothing comes loose during the rocky ride to space. NASA did this by blasting noise from loudspeakers at up to 143 decibels, which, it notes, is louder than what you’d experience standing close to a roaring jet engine.
Inspections following the shake test revealed that some fasteners attaching spacecraft components had to be tightened and a few electrical cables replaced, “but the mission team came away with increased confidence that while Perseverance will certainly be shaken during launch, nothing should stir.”
Commenting on the vitally important preparations, project manager John McNamee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said: “Mars is hard, and everybody knows that. What they may not realize is that to be successful at Mars, you have to test the absolute heck out of the thing here on Earth.”
NASA describes Perseverance as a “robotic scientist.” During its round-trip mission, the 2,300-pound (1,040-kilogram) rover will explore the Martian surface for signs of past microbial life, gather samples for return to Earth, and conduct research that will aid possible human exploration of the planet.
The Mars 2020 mission will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, with the launch window beginning on July 17. Check back for all the details on how to watch it live.
- Follow NASA’s Perseverance rover in real time as it heads toward Mars
- NASA video offers behind-the-scenes look at Perseverance mission prep
- NASA begins testing on Perseverance rover’s twin, OPTIMISM
- All the amazing rocket launches that happened this summer
- NASA reveals how Perseverance is doing as it hurtles toward Mars