February 18, 2021

Perseverance400x275As NASA’s Perseverance Rover landed on the surface of Mars, one of the companies involved in its construction provided more details about the parts of the robot. Pasadena, Calif.-based Motiv Space Systems discussed its role in the mission.

"The stakes are always high when you're dealing with space robotics," said Chris Thayer, president and CEO of Motiv Space Systems, "but that's doubly true when a mission a decade in the future is depending on your mission's success today."

At 7 feet long, the Perseverance's primary robotic arm is the largest, most visible component built for the rover by Motiv and delivered to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). During the mission, the arm will allow the rover to drill through Martian rocks to collect core samples, operate scientific instruments that will take images and perform analysis of the Martian surface, and deposit samples in the rover's chassis. 

While the other systems provided by Motiv aren't as large or visible, they're equally critical in allowing the rover to complete its mission.

The rover's Mastcam-Z cameras, featuring focus and zoom mechanisms developed by Motiv Space Systems, will bring depth and color to the images collected by the rover during its mission, allowing vivid HD video to be sent back to Earth.

A filter wheel developed by Motiv for the same Mastcam-Z instrument allows scientists to select from eight optical elements, each designed to filter a specific wavelength of light to allow for important scientific observations.

Finally, a revolutionary force torque sensor developed by Motiv exclusively for the rover will allow the Perseverance's robotic arm to get valuable real-time feedback as it drills for, collects, and manipulates samples on the Martian surface. 

"During its mission," said Thayer, "the Perseverance Rover will be able to do things no previous Mars rover could do, thanks to the unique technology it has onboard." 

"As valuable as the scientific insights we gain this in the coming weeks from the rover are likely to be, I expect to pale in comparison to what we can learn about Mars once we get the samples back on Earth." 

If all goes according to plan, the Perseverance Rover should be in operation on the surface of the planet for at least one Mars year, equivalent to 687 days here on Earth. In the meantime, Motiv is already collaborating with NASA's JPL on another project, a robotic arm that can operate in the coldest reaches of space, like the dark side of our own moon, or even on the surface of our solar system's icy moons.  

"While Perseverance is going to work on Mars," said Thayer, "our teams are already working on robotics that will be deployed with NASA and private space missions in years to come."