The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) started last Friday (4) the testing phase of the Operational Perseverance Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and Instruments Sent to Mars (OPTIMISM) rover, considered a Perseverance “twin” robot . However, unlike the latter, which will explore Mars, the new vehicle will act on Earth to simulate coping conditions on the red planet.
The rover was developed under conditions similar to the original in terms of structure, systems, mobility and size. Thus, it will serve as a test to possibly find problems originating in the Martian landscape, creating an opportunity for engineers and drivers to analyze their ability to avoid obstacles and succeed during the mission.
“The motto of the Mars 2020 Perseverance test team is‘ no optimism allowed ’. Therefore, we call the OPTIMISM rover to remind us of the work we have to do to fully check the system. Our job is to find problems, not just wait for activities to work, ”commented Matt Stumbo, leader of the JPL team, in an agency statement.
“As we resolve adversities, we gain confidence in Perseverance’s capabilities and in our operation. The mission will be well equipped to teach us what it takes to be successful on Mars, ”he concluded.
The terrestrial version of the space vehicle started to make routes at the Mars Yard, in Pasadena (California), a place designed to replicate the nature of Mars and known for being a kind of “cradle” for different robotic prototypes. So far, he has undergone direction tests on smooth surfaces and will set out on uneven terrain, with rocks and slopes.
“Perseverance’s mobility team is looking forward to finally taking our test rover outdoors. This is the robot that comes closest to simulating the real operations that Perseverance will experience, so it will be especially fun to work with, ”said Anais Zarifian, laboratory engineer.
In the beginning of 2021, OPTIMISM will be equipped with the same scientific instruments, a resource for collecting samples of rocks and soil, as well as cameras and Perseverance programming. When experiencing the rover on Earth in such a scenario, engineers will also be able to include updates to the original model during their trip to space and when they land on Mars, in case any unforeseen happens.
Launched in July this year, the Perseverance rover is scheduled to land on February 18, 2021. Considered NASA’s first astrobiological mission, it will aim to look for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars and collect the first samples from the planet for further study on Earth.