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See NASA spin its next Mars rover in search of its center of gravity

You spin me right round, baby, right round like a record, baby, right round round round.

NASA balanced out the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center in April. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's next Mars rover is just a few months away from the opening of its launch window in July. The Perseverance rover team is busy with the final preparations, including a mass properties test to ensure the vehicle is balanced.

"Precision mass properties measurements are essential to a safe landing on Mars because they help ensure that the spacecraft travels accurately throughout its trip to the red planet," NASA said in a release Monday.

The rover balancing process took place earlier this month over three days at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  

NASA shared a behind-the-scenes look at the testing, which included placing the rover on a turnover fixture that rotated Perseverance like a giant rotisserie chicken. This is part of the process of locating the rover's center of balance. 

The carnival rides didn't end there. The rover also spent time on a spin table. "To minimize friction that could affect the accuracy of the results, the table's surface sits on a spherical air bearing that essentially levitates on a thin layer of nitrogen gas," said NASA.

NASA's team added 13.8 pounds (6.27 kilograms) to the chassis. The space agency compared this to adding weights on the rims of car tires for balance. 

If all goes well, the car-size rover will join its sibling Curiosity on Mars in February 2021, and it'll be perfectly balanced while doing so.