Perseverance Rover’s Twin Takes Its First Drive in Mars Yard

Despite NASA’s Perseverance rover being cooped up inside a spacecraft for another four months as it hurtles toward Mars, the team overseeing its operation is still hard at work preparing for the big day.

To ensure Perseverance functions exactly as it should when it reaches the Martian surface in February 2021, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California is putting the rover’s twin — called OPTIMISM — through its paces here on Earth.

OPTIMISM — short for Operational Perseverance Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and Instruments Sent to Mars — is a full-scale engineering version of Perseverance that’s being used to test hardware and software before the commands are sent up to the rover. Those commands are important, too, as they are key in the mission’s goals to explore the planet for signs of ancient life, and collect rock and soil samples for return to Earth.

The twin rover also

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