Tech Briefs Magazine - February 2022 - MD-8

Earthly Twin Offers Test Bed for NASA's Perseverance
Mars Rover
O
PTIMISM, the full-scale engineering
model of Perseverance, is helping
NASA assess the risk of potential
driving hazards on the surface of the
Red Planet.
Short for Operational Perseverance
Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and
Instruments Sent to Mars, OPTIMISM
is more generically known as a vehicle
system test bed. The twin of the
Perseverance rover that is exploring
Jezero Crater on Mars is performing a
crucial job: navigating the Mars Yard's
slopes and hazards, drilling sample
cores from boulders, and storing the
samples in metal tubes - just like
Perseverance is doing in its hunt for
signs of ancient microbial life.
The recently upgraded rover has already
begun testing out new equipment.
The tests help ensure that OPTIMISM's
twin on Mars can safely execute the
commands sent by controllers on Earth.
They also could potentially reveal unexpected
problems Perseverance might
encounter.
" The size and shape of rocks in the
visual field - will they turn into obstacles
or not? " said Bryan Martin, the
flight software and test beds manager
at JPL. " We test a lot of that, figure out
what kinds of things to avoid. What
we have safely traversed around here
has informed rover drivers in planning
their traverses on Mars. We've done so
much testing on the ground we can be
confident in it. It works. "
About as long as a doubles tennis court
and twice as wide, the Mars Yard has
served as a testing ground for many a
fully-engineered rover twin - from the
engineering model of the very first, tiny
Sojourner that landed on Mars in 1997
to the Spirit and Opportunity missions
that began in 2004 to the Curiosity and
Perseverance rovers exploring Mars today.
In each case, a rover double has
scaled slopes, dodged obstacles, or
helped rover planners puzzle out new
paths on the simulated patch of Mars.
OPTIMISM first rolled out into the
Mars Yard in September 2020, when it
conducted mobility tests.
But it recently received some key
updates to match features available
on Perseverance, including additional
mobility software and the bulk of the
exquisitely complex sample caching system.
And while the team has already
performed tests using the coring drill at
Updated with new features, including additional mobility software and the bulk of the sample caching system, the Earthly twin of NASA's Perseverance Mars rover
arrives at the Mars Yard garage at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Photo: NASA JPL-Caltech)
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Tech Briefs Magazine - February 2022

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