NASA’s Perseverance rover launched in July on a multimonth journey to Mars. It’s a bit like sending your kids off to college, except you’ll never see them again.
But NASA scientists back on Earth can still enjoy the company of Optimism, Perseverance’s twin.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said on Friday that the full-scale engineering model of the rover passed its first driving test on Sept. 1.
The test took place in a warehouse, but it positions Optimism for a bigger challenge: tackling the Mars Yard, a simulated Mars landscape located at JPL’s facility in California.
“Optimism” is actually an epic acronym that stands for “operational perseverance twin for integration of mechanisms and instruments sent to Mars.” The rover is almost identical to Perseverance, right down to the size, driving system and computer brains.
NASA released a video showing the Earth-bound version of the rover moving into its new home in a garage near the Mars Yard.
Optimism has an important job to do. “To avoid as many unexpected issues as possible after the rover lands on Feb. 18, 2021, the team needs this Earth-bound vehicle system test bed (VSTB) rover to gauge how hardware and software will perform before they transmit commands up to Perseverance on Mars,” said NASA.
The new model rover will share space in the Mars Yard with Maggie (Mars automated giant gizmo for integrated engineering), the engineering model that stands in for NASA’s Curiosity rover.
“The Curiosity mission has learned lessons from Maggie that were impossible to learn any other way. Now that we have Optimism, the Perseverance mission is well equipped to learn what they need to succeed on Mars,” said NASA’s Matt Stumbo.
Perseverance is on a mission to seek out signs of ancient life on the red planet. It also carries an experimental helicopter on board.
The new rover represents the latest and greatest in planetary exploration technology. Its Earth twin will help NASA work through any challenges it faces on its new home planet.
Originally published at Cnet