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Meet NASA's 'Blue Collar' Mars Rover 'RASSOR' as it Prepares for the Red Planet

Oct 04, 2016 04:18 AM EDT
Curiosity Tracks in 'Hidden Valley' on Mars
NASA recently tested its blue collar rover that can dig and collect fuel components from the Martian surface.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)

NASA has hired a blue-collar robot for its journey to Mars. The space agency is preparing for the upcoming Journey to Mars and is taking nothing but innovative machines and equipment to Mars to ensure that the interplanetary mission will be a success. One key part of NASA's "dream team" of machines is the latest model of Mars Rover called the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR).

NASA's new blue-collar robot called RASSOR was tested at the Kennedy Space Center and promises to become a more physically functional younger brother of the current Mars Curiosity Rover on Mars. The demo video released by NASA shows RASSOR in a simulated environment digging and collecting soil from the surface.

In deep space explorations, propellants and fuels are important for making things function. These are some of the most crucial parts of every off-Earth missions since there is no current technology yet that can refuel or refill landers, voyagers or rovers that have already descended in their destinations. This is the reason why NASA built RASSOR. RASSOR will be the first of its kind to try and scavenge for resources from its host planet like water, oxygen and other materials that can then be turned into fuel.

If successful, the on-site mining of propellant or fuel components will drastically reduce the transport weight of the rover during deep space explorations. RASSOR is currently being developed at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida and it is expected to be an upgrade to its predecessor the Mars Curiosity Rover.

The rover will not only be capable of traversing the harsh terrain of the red planet. Dubbed as the "blue collar" Mars rover, it can perform digging and excavation tasks using its digging bucket and wheel drums that move in a specific way in order to mine for components from the Martian soil.

NASA recently tested the robot; it was paired with MARCO POLO or the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft. During the experiment, the blue-collar rover was able to dig up soil successfully to the delight of its engineers.

"This is not your typical NASA rover with lots of very sophisticated instruments on it that are quite fragile," Rob Mueller, senior technologist at the Kennedy Space Center's Surface Systems said in an older introduction of RASSOR. "This is actually a very tough little robot, it can dig, it can climb, it can flip over.," Mueller added. Engineers also added that if in case an uneven terrain flips the rover, it has the capability to right itself up autonomously. The new Mars rover was also seen conquering a plight of stairs.

In terms agility and speed, RASSOR will be five times faster than Curiosity and it will be capable of working for 16 hours per shift for many years. It is also expected to collect 40 pounds of soil every trip making it NASA's "blue collar" robot.


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