Who Knew He Had A Twin?

Mars Yard
The JPL Mars Yard | Photo by researchgate.net

They were separated after “birth” so-to-speak, but one will be able to help the other complete a difficult task. They are not Siamese twins or fraternal twins. They are identical but not the kind of twins you might have in mind. One you already know as Perseverance and the twin is named “OPTIMISM” which stands for Operational Perseverance Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and Instruments Sent To Mars. As we already know NASA, JPL and all of the government agencies for that matter are fond of acronyms, the use of the first letters of the agency or equipment to make up an actual name.

The Twins Together Before Perseverance Left For Mars | photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech

OPTIMISM will be earthbound, but will still perform a vital function. You might remember from my previous articles that Perseverance isn’t driven from earth like a drone down here on Earth. The distance makes it impossible to just drive the rover due to how long it takes the signal from Earth to reach Mars. Instead the rover is sent programing which tells it where to go and how to get there.

The JPL Mars Yard | Photo by researchgate.net

Since it is impossible to know exactly how Perseverance will respond to various elevations and rocks or boulders in its path at the Jerero Crater it is OPTIMISM’s job here on Earth to be driven onto the various types of terrain in the JPL Mars Yard so the programmers will know what instructions the rover will need to safely navigate the terrain of Mars. The Yard has been built from pictures taken of the crater to simulate the various areas of the Jezero Crater.

Bryan Martin JPL | Photo by nasa.jpl.gov

A November 17th article posted on NASA’s JPL website was tiled “Twin of NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Begins Terrain Tests” and was written by Pat Brennan. Brennan quotes Bryan Martin, the flight software and test beds manager at JPL who explained “The size and shape of rocks in the visual field – will they turn into obstacles or not?” “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.”

Sample Caching System Test
Testing The Perseverance Sample Caching System | Photo by mars.nasa.com

They have tested OPTIMISM with the drilling equipment and caching system added on to make sure the drilling process and storage process will work properly regardless of the terrain. Vehicle System Ted Bed systems engineering lead, Jose G. Trujillo-Rojas is quoted describes that process “Now we can do it end-to-end in the test bed. Drill into the rock, collect the core sample, and now we have the mechanism responsible to cache that sample in the cylinder.”

Another purpose of the twin rover is to allow the team to fix problems that arise with the Perseverance Rover’s travels on Mars and work a solution down here on Earth so they can then send the proper programming to Mars for Perseverance to safely continue the core sampling process safely and efficiently.

I’m sure there will be more revelations as this Mars exploration continues into the future.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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