Perseverance Rover Interactive 3D Model

NASA released a 3D printable static display model of Mars rover Perseverance, which seems to have some improvements over the earlier Curiosity model. But that’s not the only 3D resource for the rover currently on its way to Mars. There is also a version designed for on-screen display rather than 3D printing.

Both the 3D printable (in STL file format) and 3D render (GLB file format) models were listed on the Mars 2020 rover page, which as of this writing has curiosity disappeared from the index page of NASA 3D resources. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but hopefully it’ll be fixed shortly.

When I listed 3D resources for Curiosity there was also a model suitable for 3D rendering. Available as download files for Blender the open source 3D graphics tool and as files embedded in a web page for interactive viewing. The latter is again available: The Mars 2020 mission page has a 3D model of Perseverance that we can interact within a web browser.

This browser interactive model is the most easily accessible version, there’s no need to install Blender or any other piece of software. It serves as an index page to many other pieces of information talking about the rover. While it has a lot of detail missing from the 3D printable model, it still has a few minor flaws. One of them I noticed only because I’ve been a fanatic of the rover: the online interactive rover’s right side wheels are reversed from the actual rover.

Perseverance, like Curiosity before it, has wheel spokes that are curved to absorb impact. I simplified the idea and translated it into a 3D-printable shape for Sawppy’s wheel. For both rovers, the direction of curvature for wheel spokes are the same for all six wheels, clearly visible in rover test footage. Shot in JPL’s vehicle assembly bay, we can see that the wheel spoke curvature is “clockwise” on all six wheels of Curiosity and Perseverance.

On the online interactive 3D model, its left side wheels match the real rover but its right side wheels had been flipped so the spokes point counter-clockwise.

It’s a tiny detail that would only be noticed by the most particular of rover fans, which I certainly am. Surprisingly, I’m not the only one! Because I’ve received questions about whether Sawppy’s wheels should be printed in mirrored orientation. Some Sawppy builders choose as I did, to have six identical wheels matching the real rover. Others chose to mirror three of the wheels as the web page interactive model did.

But one of the most exciting parts of the Mars 2020 mission is not visible at all here. Riding along with Perseverance rover is the first aircraft built by humans to fly in the atmosphere of another planet.

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