The NASA rover is scheduled to blast off towards the Red Planet later this year, despite the world going into lockdown due to coronavirus. On March 30, the Perseverance rover was fitted with six flight wheels, each powered by an individual motor. The wheels will keep the rover trudging along on its journey to find life on Mars.

NASA said: “While the rover took a test drive last December, it was on ‘flight spares’ that wouldn’t be making the trip to Mars.

“Designed for the kind of off-roading Perseverance will perform on the Red Planet, the wheels are re-engineered versions of the ones NASA’s Curiosity has been using on its traverses of Mount Sharp.”

The wheels are each machined out of a block of flight-grade aluminium.

Fitted with titanium spokes, Perseverance’s wheels are slightly bigger in diameter but narrower than NASA’s famous Curiosity rover’s.

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The wheels are also about a millimetre thicker and feature a new tread design.

They will allow the rover to scale the “thigh-high rocks” that cover the desolate landscape of Mars.

The rover is also designed to withstand inclinations of 45 degrees in any direction without tipping over.

However, as a safety precaution, the rover is programmed to avoid any surfaces tilted more than 30 degrees.

NASA said: “By Earth vehicle standards, the Perseverance rover is slow. By Martian vehicle standards, however, Perseverance is a standout performer.

“The rover has a top speed on flat, hard ground of 4.2 centimetres per second, or 152 meters per hour. That is a little less than 0.1mph.

By Earth vehicle standards, the Perseverance rover is slow

NASA

“For comparison, a 3mph walking pace is 134 centimetres per second, or 4,828 meters per hour.”

A slower-paced rover is more efficient and will consume much less energy, at about 200 watts.

NASA said: “Compare that to a 200 horsepower car engine, consuming nearly 150,000 watts.”

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When will NASA’s Perseverance rover launch towards Mars?

The rover is currently scheduled to blast off from Florida, US, later in July.

Launching a payload towards Mars requires picking a narrow window of opportunity for the most optimal trajectory.

Even the shortest flight towards Mars will last more than six months.

The rover is being assembled at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida but will launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

NASA has pencilled in a launch date of July 17, 2020, at 4pm BST (1pm UTC, 9am EDT).

The rover will be strapped to a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

Should the launch be delayed, NASA will still have a chance to launch its payload until August 5.

If the rover does launch on July 17, NASA expects it to land on Mars by February 18, 2021.

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