Last week, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center unveiled a robotic Mars rover that will launch in 2020 and will land on the planet by 2021. It will spend at least one Mars year (two Earth years) exploring the landing site region. NASA hopes the data from the rover will build on discoveries from the Mars Curiosity and the two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, by taking the next key steps in our understanding of Mars’ potential as a habitat for past or present life.
Many outlets have marveled over the concept, calling it NASA’s “Batmobile.” The rover is made entirely of carbon fiber and aluminium. The rover operates on an electric motor, powered by solar panels and a 700-volt battery. It measures 28 feet long, 14 feet wide and 11 feet tall, and has “massive wheels designed to travel over dunes, rocks and craters,” NASA said.
The rover separates in the middle with the front area designed for scouting and equipped with a radio and navigation provided by a GPS. The back section serves as a laboratory which can disconnect for autonomous research. While this exact rover is not expected to operate on Mars, one or more of its elements could make its way into a rover astronauts will drive on Mars.
From July through August, it will be displayed at several locations during a tour along the East Coast. The Mars rover concept vehicle will then return to the visitor complex to be part of the new Astronaut Training Experience attraction opening in the fall of this year.
The rover is just one of many Mars-bound technologies that will incorporate carbon fiber. Over the past few years, NASA has unveiled everything from a boomerang-shaped plane to specialized spacesuits that will be made with CFRP. More notably, the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Is using one of the largest composites manufacturing robots created in America to build the biggest, lightweight composite parts ever made for space vehicles. The composite structures for the vehicles, which are larger than 26 feet in diameter, will be tested for NASA’s new Space Launch System, a rocket designed for deep space missions, including the 2020 mission to Mars.