The Mars 2020 rover is preparing for its big mission by doing some “bicep curls” in a new video released by NASA.
The rover will head to Mars in July 2020 and is scheduled to land on the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater in February 2021. It’s a big mission to prepare for: the rover will collect samples from rock and soil on the planet’s surface. Both will be heavy, so NASA has decided to give its arms a good workout.
The robotic arm is seven feet long and weighs 88 pounds. There’s five electric motors and five joints that mimic the movement of an actual human arm.
The time-lapsed video shows a close-up look at the Mars 2020 rover and its arm working in action.
“This was our first opportunity to watch the arm and turret move in concert with each other, making sure that everything worked as advertised — nothing blocking or otherwise hindering smooth operation of the system,” said Dave Levine, an integration engineer for Mars 2020, in a Jet Propulsion Labratory blog post discussing the video. “Standing there, watching the arm and turret go through their motions, you can’t help but marvel that the rover will be in space in less than a year from now and performing these exact movements on Mars in less than two.”
The Mars 2020 rover will be the seventh to be dispatched to Mars, joining the ranks of Curiosity, InSight lander, Spirit, and Opportunity. The Opportunity rover was the longest-lasting one in Mars exploration history. It roamed about 28 miles of Mars’ surface and was active for 14 years. NASA officially declared Opportunity dead in February.
This new rover doesn’t have a name yet, but NASA has put out a call for K-12 students around the country to suggest names the newest exploration drone.
The hope for this new rover is to be the first to return Martian rock samples to Earth by collecting and storing them for a later mission to come and collect. NASA scientists haven’t figured out if a future return trip mission is plausible yet, but they are gearing the rover up to be able to collect rocks and soil with its beefy robotic arm nonetheless.