Engineers at JPL install the starboard legs and wheels - otherwise known as the mobility suspension - on the Mars 2020 rover. (Photo: China Plus)
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, have installed starboard legs and wheels, known as the mobility suspension, on the Mars 2020 rover, according to a JPL release on Thursday.
"With the suspension on, not only does it look like a rover, but we have almost all our big-ticket items for integration in our rearview mirror -- if our rover had one," said David Gruel, the Mars 2020 assembly, test, and launch operations manager at JPL.
Within the next few weeks, the team expects to install the vehicle's robotic arm, the mast-mounted SuperCam instrument and the Sample Caching System, which includes 17 separate motors and will collect samples of Martian rock and soil that will be returned to Earth by a future mission.
According to JPL, both of the rover's legs are composed of titanium tubing formed with the same process used to make high-end bicycle frames.
Made of aluminum, each of the six wheels, 52.5 centimeters in diameter, features 48 grousers and is machined into its surface to provide excellent traction both in soft sand and on hard rocks.
Every wheel has its own motor. The two front and two rear wheels also have individual steering motors that enable the vehicle to turn a full 360 degrees in place, according to JPL.
Mars 2020 rover is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020. It will land at Jezero Crater on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.