NASA unveils Mars rover concept designed to carry people
Elements of futuristic concept could be incorporated into Mars 2020 rover design
Move over, Mars rover, it's time for an upgrade.
NASA has unveiled a new concept for a vehicle that could one day transport people on the Red Planet.
The latest model is 8.5 metres long, 4.3 metres wide and 3.3 metres high, sitting on six massive wheels and weighing 2.7 tonnes. It can carry up to four astronauts and has a detachable mobile lab.
Despite its bulk, the vehicle can reach a speed of 110 km/h, thanks to an electric motor powered by solar panels and a 700-volt battery, though it's not likely to travel more than 24 km/h in the atmosphere and terrain of Mars.
NASA commissioned the futuristic design from Florida-based Parker Brothers Concepts, and unveiled the vehicle at the Kennedy Space Center this week as part of a Summer of Mars exhibit.
The design is "based on NASA science," with input from the agency's subject matter experts, the agency said in a news release.
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"It features life-support systems, navigation and communication systems, and design and materials that relate to conditions and resources on Mars," NASA said.
Two previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars in 2004. Spirit went out of commission in 2010, but Opportunity is still going. The two have produced hundreds of thousands of images and reams of data.
Then there's Curiosity, which arrived on Mars in 2012 with the most advanced scientific equipment to date. It can send back raw images and video, and capture rock, soil and air samples, which it analyzes on board.
NASA expects to send a robotic rover back to Mars in 2020, when it will "search for signs of past microbial life and collect core samples for a potentially future return to Earth," the agency said.
Some of elements of the concept rover could be incorporated into the design.