When you look at photos of NASA’s Mars rovers, parked on the Martian surface all by themselves with nothing Earthly around them, it’s hard to figure out exactly how big these robots actually are.
A new photo released by NASA this week changes all of that.
The actual size of the Mars 2020 rover, recently dubbed Perseverance, is shown in this new image of the robot alongside its Earthly companions who are preparing it for its July-August launch period.
In the image, Perseverance is undergoing tests at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and is shown stretching its six aluminum wheels in the air.
Earlier this month, the test and launch operations team attached two of Perseverance’s most essential tools that will help the robot bring samples of Mars back to Earth.
The Bit Carousel is attached to the top front of the rover, and contains nine drill bits that Perseverance will use to collect samples of Martian rock and dust. The samples move through the belly of the robot, and into the Adaptive Caching Assembly System, where they are assessed and processed.
The assembly system contains seven motors, and more than 3,000 parts including the Sample Handling Arm that the rover will use to hold sample tubes.
"With the addition of the Adaptive Caching Assembly and Bit Carousel, the heart of our sample collection system is now on board the rover," Matt Wallace, deputy project manager of the Mars 2020 mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement . "Our final but most crucial elements to install will be the sample tubes that will contain the first samples that will be brought from another planet back to Earth for analysis.”
“We will keep these pristine until we integrate them in a couple of months."
NASA is still on schedule to launch Perseverance to Mars despite ongoing concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus.
Once it reaches Mars, Perseverance will join the Curiosity rover, who landed on Mars back in August, 2012 and is still roaming the Red Planet to this day.
NASA previously sent two other rovers to Mars, Spirit and Opportunity, who landed on the red planet in January, 2004. Spirit ended its mission in 2010 — way past its planned 90-day expedition on the planet — while Opportunity tragically lost contact with Earth in 2018 after a massive dust storm swept over Mars.
The Mars 2020 Rover will look for signs of habitability on the Martian surface and past microbial life, collecting samples of rocks and soil and setting them aside for a future mission to return them back to Earth.
The mission will also test out conditions for possible human exploration of Mars by testing a method of producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, characterizing environmental conditions such as water and dust on Mars and looking for resources.
The rover is set to spend at least one Martian year on the planet, the equivalent of 687 days on Earth.