Have you ever wanted to build your own Mars rover? Well, now you can.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has designed an open-source Mars rover, a driving six-wheel vehicle with almost the same suspension system as the real rovers on Mars.
The difference? They only used commonly available components that you can easily buy online and assemble in a garage for less than $2,500.
“We provide the parts list and the build instructions, and you provide the hands, brains, and elbow grease to put it all together,” the website says.
The detailed parts list and step-by-step instructions live in GitHub and are easy to understand for both high schoolers and adults. The JPL team publicly released the plans for this rover as “a way to try and give budding enthusiasts a fun robotics project that will help teach them and get them involved in robotics sooner and at a lower cost.”
“I would love to have had the opportunity to build this rover in high school, and I hope that through this project we provide that opportunity to others,” said JPL’s Tom Soderstrom in a post announcing the open source rover.“We wanted to give back to the community and lower the barrier of entry by giving hands on experience to the next generation of scientists, engineers, and programmers.”
The open-source rover uses a few of the major driving mechanics that the Mars rovers use to traverse rocky surfaces in real life:
- Rocker-Bogie suspension system allows all six wheels to always be in contact with the ground while climbing over obstacles
- Differential Pivot allows weight to be mechanically offloaded from one side to the other when climbing
- Six-Wheel Ackerman Steering drives, steers, and turns the wheels, and controls how fast each of them will move
A Raspberry Pi is the “brain” of the rover, and any method you can use to communicate with a Raspberry Pi (Bluetooth, WiFi, USB, or devices) can be interfaced into the control system of the robot.
Have some free time this weekend? I think we just found your next project. Head over to the open-source rover’s website to learn more and get started.
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Emily has written for some of the top tech companies, covering everything from creative copywriting to UX design. When she's not writing, she's traveling the world (next stop: Japan!), brewing kombucha, and biking through the Pacific Northwest.