Bust a move! NASA’s break dancing rover goes for a spin to help engineers find its center of gravity as it prepares for a trip to Mars
- NASA released footage of its Mars rover turning on a spin table
- Vehicle spun clockwise and counterclockwise at about 1 revolution per minute
- Engineers use this process to find the rover’s center of gravity
- Determining this is key to the rover having successful mission in 2020
The break dancing rover set to travel to Mars in 2020 put on a show at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The 2,300-pound Martian vehicle spun around clockwise and counterclockwise at about one revolution per minute.
Using a spin table, Engineers use this process to find the rover’s center of gravity as this is key to a successful mission.
The 2,300-pound Martian vehicle spun around clockwise and counterclockwise at about one revolution per minute
Finding the rover’s center of gravity is critical to this 2020 mission, as it is a major component in the assembly process as well as ensure the craft travels smoothly from start to finish.
If measurements are not where they need to be, engineers can add weights in order to help balance out the vehicle.
Following the spin table test, the team added nine tungsten weights totaling 44 pounds (20 kilograms) to the rover chassis at predetermined attachment points to get the center of gravity just right.
‘The spin table process is similar to how a gas station would balance a new tire before putting it on your car,’ said Lemil Cordero, Mars 2020 mass properties engineer at JPL.
‘We rotate the rover back and forth and look for asymmetries in its mass distribution.’
‘Then, similar to your gas station putting small weights on the tire’s rim to bring it into balance, we’ll put small balance masses on the rover in specific locations to get its center of gravity exactly where we want it.’
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT NASA’S MARS 2020 ROVER?
Nasa’s Mars 2020 rover will search for signs of ancient life on Mars in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet.
The machine will explore an ancient river delta within the Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600-foot (500-meter) deep lake.
It is believed that the region hosted microbial life some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago.
Nasa’s Mars 2020 rover (artist’s impression) will search for signs of ancient life on Mars in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet
The $2.5 billion (£1.95 billion) Mars 2020 is planned to launch in July 2020, and land in February 2021.
Mars 2020 is designed to land inside the crater and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis.
Nasa says a second mission will need to fly to the planet and return the samples, perhaps by the later 2020s.
This concept art shows the Mars 2020 rover landing on the red planet via NASA’s ‘sky-crane’ system
This was the assembled rover’s first spin table test to determine its center of gravity; a second and final spin table test will occur at a NASA facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida next spring.
JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for NASA.
The rover will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July 2020 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.
When the rover lands at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, it will be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration with the ability to accurately retarget its point of touchdown during the landing sequence.
Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028.