Mars Perseverance rover kitted out with new wheels & brakes as mission looms (PHOTOS)
With its scheduled launch date now looming large, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has been kitted out with slick new wheels and brakes to help it cope with the Red Planet’s rough terrain.
Perseverance is set to take off for Mars in July, where it will scour the Martian surface for signs of life and habitable conditions in its ancient past. It will replace the hardy Curiosity rover, which has been trundling around on the surface of Mars for over seven years.
Lessons learned from Curiosity, and rigorous testing, have prompted designers to tweak the specifications for the wheels and brakes that were fitted on the robot this week.
Machined out of a block of flight-grade aluminum and equipped with titanium spokes, each wheel is slightly larger in diameter and narrower than Curiosity’s.
The wheel’s skins are also almost a millimeter thicker and feature new treads, known as grousers. Instead of Curiosity’s 24 chevron-pattern treads, there are 48 gently curved ones.
The redesign was informed by extensive testing in the Mars Yard at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The curved treads were shown to better withstand pressure from sharp rocks and grip just as well or better than Curiosity’s when driving on sand.
The wheels will enable the intrepid machine to hit a top speed of 152 meters per hour, while this might not sound like much, it’s positively nippy by Martian standards.
“By Earth vehicle standards, the Perseverance rover is slow. By Martian vehicle standards, however, Perseverance is a standout performer,” NASA said.
The robot took a test drive last December but it was carried out on “flight spares” that won’t be making the trip to Mars.
Perseverance is currently set to touch down in Mars’ Jezero crater early next year. As well as nearly two dozen cameras and two microphones, the machine will also be accompanied by the Mars Helicopter, which will help it scout for locations to study.
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