NASA’s Mars 2020 rover just passed its first driving test at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. A preliminary assessment of its activities on Dec 17, 2019, found that the rover checked all the necessary boxes as it rolled forward and backward and pirouetted in a clean room, NASA said in a press statement.
“Mars 2020 has earned its driver’s license,” said Rich Rieber, the lead mobility systems engineer for Mars 2020. He said that the rover demonstrated many of the autonomous-navigation functions for the first time and proved that it can operate under its own weight.
The Mars 2020 rover is scheduled to launch in July or August next year to search for signs of past microbial life on Mars. NASA said that the next time the Mars 2020 rover drives, it will be over the Martian soil.
The new Mars rover will also characterise “Mars’ climate and geology, collect samples for a future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet”. As per NASA’s plan, the Mars 2020 rover will land in an area of Mars known as Jezero Crater on Feb 18, 2021.
The Mars 2020 is part of a larger program to prepare for human exploration of the red planet. At the moment, NASA’s Curiosity rover is on Mars searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life.
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