On Oct. 29, 2021, a heavy-duty vehicle transports the Perseverance rover's engineering model from a test lab to the Mars Yard garage at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Short for Operational Perseverance Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and Instruments Sent to Mars, OPTIMISM is generically referred to as a vehicle system test bed.
As with vehicle system test beds for other Mars rovers, OPTIMISM is used to test moves and scenarios in the Mars Yard's simulated Red Planet landscape to help ensure that its twin on Mars can safely execute the commands sent by Earth-bound controllers. The tests could also potentially reveal unexpected problems Perseverance might encounter. With longer drives in Perseverance's near future, another job for OPTIMISM will involve presenting new challenges to the rover's autonomous navigation system, or AutoNav.
A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA's Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
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