This Is How the Wheels NASA's New Rover Will Use Look Like

Mars 2020 rover gets wheels 1 photo
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Another week, another important step announced by NASA in the process of getting its newest rover ready for its historic mission to Mars.
Tucked away inside a room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the Mars 2020 rover is slowly coming together with all the world able to watch thanks to a webcam installed in a viewing gallery above the room.

NASA has a way of releasing information about its exploits weeks after they occurred, and that was the case this week, when the agency showed images taken on June 13 of the wheels of the rover being installed together with the starboard legs.

The wheels you see fitted on the machine are not the actual ones the rover will use in its mission, but they are engineering models.

The final version of the wheels are made of aluminum and sized 20.7 inches (52.2 cm). For traction, 48 cleats have been machined into the wheel's surface. Each of them is powered by its own motor, with the front and rear ones also being fitted with steering capabilities.

Fitting the test wheels on the rover is a major step towards the completion of the machine that is expected to forever change our understanding of Mars, but also make the first steps in turning it into a more Earth-like planet.

"Now that's a Mars rover," said in a statement David Gruel, the Mars 2020 assembly, test, and launch operations manager.

"With the suspension on, not only does it look like a rover, but we have almost all our big-ticket items for integration in our rearview mirror - if our rover had one."

Up next in the assembly process is the fitting of the robotic arm, the mast-mounted SuperCam instrument and the Sample Caching System.

The 2020 mission will land on the Red Planet in February 2021. Among its many missions, it will be trying to generate oxygen, search for signs of life and prepare samples that are to be picked up and sent to Earth by another future mission.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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