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NASAs Mars 2020 Rover Gets Its Space Legs Wheels

first_img NASA Attaches Helicopter to Mars 2020 RoverNASA Now Accepting Names for Mars 2020 Rover Stay on target NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is one step closer to the Red Planet.Well, six steps, technically.Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory last week installed two starboard legs and half a dozen wheels—the mobility suspension—on the vehicle.“Now that’s a Mars rover,” David Gruel, the Mars 2020 assembly, test, and launch operations manager at JPL, said in a statement.Both legs are composed of titanium tubing, formed with the same process used to make high-end bicycle frames.All six wheels, each with its own motor, are aluminum—with “grousers” or cleats built in to provide traction on the planet’s soft sand and hard rock. The two front and rear tires also have individual steering motors, enabling the vehicle to turn a full 360 degrees.The wheels pictured here will not make the trip to Mars; these engineering models will be swapped for flight models sometime next year.Engineers prepare the starboard legs and wheels for integration onto NASA’s Mars 2020 rover (via NASA/JPL-Caltech)“With the suspension on, not only does it look like a rover,” Gruel said, “but we have almost all our big-ticket items for integration in our rearview mirror—if our rover had one.”A bit like the cars we drive on Earth, the vehicle’s suspension system maintains a constant weight on each wheel. And while drivers avoid terrain that would cause a tilt of more than 30 degrees, the rover can withstand a 45-degree tilt in any direction without tipping over.With the mobility and port suspensions in place, the team expects to install the device’s robotic arm and mast-mounted SuperCam instrument within the next few weeks.Also ready for placement is the Sample Caching System, which includes 17 separate motors, and will collect samples of Martian rock and soil that will be returned to the Earth by a future mission.Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida next July. It is scheduled to land at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.Want to be part of NASA’s 2020 mission? There is still time to fly your name—etched onto a microchip—on the rover. Sign up before Sept. 30 to receive a downloadable souvenir boarding pass.A live-stream from a JPL clean room last week gave fans a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into assembling and testing a Mars rover.More on Geek.com:NASA Scientists Install HD ‘Eyes’ in Mars 2020 RoverNASA Puts Mars 2020 Rover to the TestNASA Spots ‘Star Trek’ Starfleet Logo ‘Dune Footprints’ on Marslast_img read more