NASA Is Letting People Make Their Own Mars Rovers

NASA Is Letting People Make Their Own Mars Rovers

NASA has developed plans for a DIY Mars Rover, and they’re publishing them online for anybody to make their own robotic planetary explorer.

Just imagine what you could do with your own Mars Rover. You could instruct it to go into the kitchen, make you a sandwich, and deliver it without ever spilling a crumb. You could have it take out your garbage, pick up your dog’s droppings from the backyard, and even analyze them for hookworm infections.

It would take a few customizations, but it’s possible.

It's true! NASA, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to make public plans for your own DIY Mars Rover. All the technical plans, instructions, and programming have been posted on the open-source data site GitHub for anyone to access and download. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab calls it the "Open Source Rover Project (OSR)."

The designs are a little complex for a complete layman, but if you’ve got a bit of engineering and programming knowledge, then it’s totally doable. All the parts are commercially available in-store or online, and the estimated cost to the purchase them all is around $2,500. The time it takes to assemble and test your version is going to be dependant on your personal engineering knowledge.

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The Open Source Rover is based on the Curiosity Mars Rover that landed on the red planet back in August of 2012. It’s got 6-wheel steering and the same Rocker-Bogie suspension that the real Curiosity has.

NASA Is Letting People Make Their Own Mars Rovers
via Jet Propulsion Laboratory on GitHub

However, it is missing a few things such as the solar panels, the complex scientific scanning tools, and the robotic arms. The good news is that the OSR is more like a platform – there’s plenty of room to add your own customizations, whether that be solar panels, robot arms, or a custom sandwich delivery mechanism. You could even add more mundane things like USB cameras or a flamethrower.

“We wanted to give back to the community and lower the barrier of entry by giving hands-on experience to the next generation of scientists, engineers, and programmers,” said Tom Soderstrom, the project sponsor for the Open Source Rover. Tom and the rest of the scientists over at the Jet Propulsion Lab hope to foster an open-source environment that gets DIY-engineers talking because when people collaborate, great things happen.

Who knows? Maybe a DIY project like this one will invent some technology that will be used on the next Mars lander.

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