It’s not every day you send something to another planet, and NASA likes to adorn its robotic explorers with a little decoration to make these missions extra-special. That’s why the people of Earth were invited to add their name to a tiny silicon chip mounted on the rover. Now that the rover is on the surface and there are dozens of photos of its hardware, the internet has spotted another fun ornamentation: a cute little rover family.
NASA is invested in anthropomorphizing its rovers — you need look no further than Twitter to confirm that. So, it’s only right the robot should display its family configuration for all to see, like so many minivans here on Earth. The human stick figure version usually consists of one or two adults, along with smaller figures to represent kids. Some of them even toss in the family dog.
An engineer on NASA’s team noticed that the agency’s rovers could be arranged into a visually similar configuration, and here we are. This wasn’t part of any necessary addition — Moogega Cooper from the Mars 2020 team says everyone working on the rover is an overachiever. So that checks out.
Now that it's out, here is a photo of the family portrait just before it was bolted on! (For those wondering if it was biologically clean, yes… yes it was!). #Mars2020 pic.twitter.com/GSTfA896tQ
— Dr. Moogega (무지개) Cooper (@moogega) February 22, 2021
The rovers on the far right are Curiosity and Perseverance, and then next to that are Spirit and Opportunity. These twin rovers headed off to the red planet in 2004 with an expected life of 90 Martian days (sols). Spirit eventually made it more than 2,000 days, and Opportunity ended just shy of 5,400 sols until the 2018 global dust storm. All the way over on the left is the tiniest rover, which is actually the oldest. That’s Sojourner, which spent 83 sols on Mars in 1997 as part of the Pathfinder mission — it was the first wheeled robot to explore another planet.
There’s one more thing to see hovering near Perseverance. Yes, that’s the Ingenuity helicopter, a technology demonstration that is set to make history. Just as Sojourner was the first rover on another planet, Ingenuity is going to be the first flying robot on another planet. It’s a fun way to commemorate the rich history of NASA’s exploration of Mars.
Perseverance has been stationary ever since it landed earlier this month. NASA is currently going over Perseverance’s systems and planning its first science experiments. The team will also search for a good place to set up Ingenuity in the coming weeks.
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