Successful Launch Of Mars-Bound Perseverance

The rover formerly known as Mars 2020 is on the way to the red planet! Today started the interplanetary journey for a robotic geologist. Perseverance rover is tasked with the next step in the sequence of searching for life on Mars, a mission plan informed by the finding of predecessor Curiosity rover.

I first saw the mission identifier (logo) when it was on the side of the rocket payload fairing and thought it was an amazing minimalist design. It also highlighted the ground clearance for the rover’s rocker-bogie suspension, which has direct application to Sawppy and other 3D-printed models here on Earth. I’ll come back to this topic later.

Speaking of Sawppy, of course I wasn’t going to let this significant event pass without some kind of celebration, but plans sometimes go awry. I try to keep project documentation on this blog focused by project, in an effort to avoid disorienting readers with the real-life reality that I constantly jump from one project to another, then back, on a regular and frequent basis. I’ve been writing about my machine automation project over the past few days and I have a few more posts to go, but here’s a sneak peek at another project that will be detailed on this blog soon: the baby Sawppy rover.

Originally intended to be up and running by Perseverance launch day (today) I missed that self-imposed deadline. The inspiration was the cartoon rover used as mascot for Perseverance’s naming contest, I wanted to bring that drawing to life and it fit well with my goal to make a smaller, less expensive, and easier to build rover model. Right now I’m on the third draft whose problems will inform a fourth draft, and I expect many more drafts. The first draft’s problems came to a head before I even printed all the pieces and was aborted. The second draft was printed, assembled, and motorized.

Getting the second draft up and running highlighted several significant problems with the steering knuckle design. Fixing it required changing not just the knuckles, but also the suspension arms that attached to them, and it ended up easier to just restart from scratch on a third draft. I couldn’t devote the time to get the little guy up and running by launch day, so I had to resort to a video where I moved it by hand.

Still, people loved baby Sawppy rover, including some people at the NASA Perseverance social media team! The little guy got a tiny slice of time in their Countdown to Mars video, at roughly the one minute mark alongside a few other hobbyist rovers.

More details on baby Sawppy rover will be coming to this blog, stay tuned.

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