The Perseverance Mars rover is the most out of this world SUV.
The scientific vehicle has nearly the same weight and footrpint as a World War 2-era Jeep and is capable of some serious rock crawling.
Crawling being a very literal term in this case, as the six-wheel vehicle has a maximum speed of .01 mph.
Each of those wheels is equipped with an electric motor, however, and the four on the corners can all steer. The vehicle is also capable of negotiating a 45-degree grade in any direction, but its controllers back on earth limit it to 30 degrees in the instructions they send it that take 5 to 20 minutes to arrive.
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The six identical wheels are 20.7-inches in diameter and constructed of aluminum hubs and skins that are connected by flexible titanium spokes.
A highly articulated suspension allows the wheels to ride over rocks as tall as they are, and now we know what the metal cleats that form their treads sound like as they’re clawing at the sand and rocks.
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Perseverance is equipped with a microphone that was primarily for capturing the sounds of its descent to the planet’s surface and has now been used to record a 90-foot cruise it recently took across the Jazero Crater.
NASA posted a 16-minute clip and a shorter highlight reel of the noise, which includes pops, scrapes and a scratching sound that may be some sort of electronic interference.
“If I heard these sounds driving my car, I’d pull over and call for a tow,” Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Mars 2020’s EDL Camera and Microphone subsystem said. “But if you take a minute to consider what you’re hearing and where it was recorded, it makes perfect sense.”
Maybe next time they’ll step it up and send a GoPro video camera, but it will be a while before anyone has the kind of fun actually driving on an extraterrestrial body that the Apollo astronauts did in the Moon rover, in which the late Capt. Eugene Cernan reached a record speed of 11.2 mph.