NASA Mars 2020 Rover Takes a Spin

NASA Mars 2020 Rover Takes a Spin
Speeded up 28 times, this time-lapse shows NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on a spin table at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Aug. 29, 2019. Engineers were looking to establish the rover’s center of gravity, or the point at which weight is evenly dispersed on all sides.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have taken the agency’s SUV-sized Mars 2020 rover for a spin so to speak. And its all in the name of science !

As assembly of the Mars 2020 rover nears completion, the team needs to determine the six wheeled robots center of gravity so that it can travel smoothly and safely as she plummets through the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere while enduring the terrifying 7 minutes of terror and hopefully touches down softly following the skycrane maneuver targeted for Jezero Crater in Feb. 2021.

As seen in the video above, Mars 2020 went for a spin on Aug. 29. 

“The 2,300-pound (1,040-kilogram) Martian vehicle was rotated clockwise and counterclockwise at about 1 revolution per minute on what is called a spin table in the clean room of the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (The rotation was speeded up in the video above.) The engineers were looking for the rover’s center of gravity, or the point at which weight is evenly dispersed on all sides,” NASA said in a statement.

Altogether the team attached nine tungsten weights totaling 44 pounds (20 kilograms) to the rover chassis to get the center of gravity just right.  Another spin tst will be conducted duing final checkout at KSC. The same procedures were done for Curiosity during her assembly and testing phase prior to 2011 launch. 

“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, in a statement. 

“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.”

The Mars 2020 Rover is preparing to launch to the Red Planet in July 2020, but it doesn’t have a name yet. NASA is asking K-12 students across the United States to send in essays with their best name ideas by Nov. 1.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA has also invited K-12 students to enter a new naming contest and submit worthy names for the 2020 Rover.

Think fast because the deadline to enter the contest and submit your name is Nov. 1, 2019.

Details about how the rules and how to enter NASA’s naming contest for the Mars 2020 rover are here: https://go.nasa.gov/name2020

Furthermore – don’t forget that NASA is inviting the public to send their name along for the journey that begins with blastoff of the ‘2020 Rover’ in July 2020.

Members of the public who want to send their name to Mars on NASA’s next rover mission to the Red Planet (Mars 2020) can get a souvenir boarding pass and their names etched on microchips to be affixed to the rover.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

From now until Sept. 30, you can send your name to Mars by adding it to a chip to be loaded on board for the journey.

You can sign up and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here: https://go.nasa.gov/Mars2020Pass

Over 7.0 million people have already signed up to place their names on the chips as of today, June 12.

I was fortunate to visit with Curiosity in the KSC clean room back in 2011, 3 weeks before liftoff.  A memory I’ll always cherish !

Dr. Ken Kremer/Space UpClose in the KSC clean room with NASA Curiosity Mars rover in 2011. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The 1 ton rover (2,300 pounds, 1,000 kilograms) is nearly a copy of the NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Lab rover still operating on Mars – but with a completely new suite of science instruments and cameras as well as the 1st Mars Helicopter.

The Mars 2020 rover will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The launch window opens in July 2020.

It is being targeted to touch down at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

Mars 2020 will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. 


Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Sep 21: 1 PM: American Space
Museum
, 308 Pine Street,
Titusville, Florida. 

“Exploring Mars and the Search for life – 3D” – Learn all about NASA’s
Curiosity Mars rover illustrated with Ken’s custom created Mars rover panoramas
from Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity and up close clean room and launch pad
views. Free and open to public.  Ken’s Space/Rocket/Mars imagery for sale
to support his outreach


Sep 20: 7 PM 

Launch update and Sep 21 Mars rover talk preview. Quality Inn Kennedy Space
Center, Titusville, FL



Oct 15: AIAA, Columbia, SC.
Details upcoming



“Exploring Mars and the Search for life – 3D” – Learn all about NASA’s
Curiosity Mars rover illustrated with Ken’s custom created Mars rover panoramas
from Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity and up close clean room and launch pad
views.

Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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