This time-lapse video, taken on Oct. 8, 2019, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, captures the first time NASA’s Mars 2020 rover has carried its full weight on its legs and wheels.
“After years of design, analysis and testing, it is fantastic to see the rover on her wheels for the first time,” said Ben Riggs, a mechanical systems engineer working on Mars 2020 at JPL. “The whole team looks forward to seeing her in the same configuration on Mars in the not too distant future.”
The rover’s legs (the black tubing visible above the wheels) are composed of titanium, while the wheels are made of aluminium. Measuring 20.7 inches (52.5 centimetres) in diameter and machined with traction-providing cleats, or grousers, the wheels are engineering models that will be replaced with flight models next year. Every wheel has its own motor. The two front and two rear wheels also have individual steering motors that enable the vehicle to turn a full 360 degrees in place.
When driving over uneven terrain, the rover’s “rocker-bogie” suspension system – called that because of its multiple pivot points and struts – maintains a relatively constant weight on each wheel for stability. Rover ...