It should launch in less than a year and it's already got its sea legs, er ... space legs.
NASA's next Martian vehicle is finally supporting its own weight.
The space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California released the brief time-lapse video above showing the Mars 2020 rover's six wheels and legs taking on the full pull of Earth. It should be good training for rolling around Mars, where the rover will weigh significantly less thanks to the Red Planet's weaker gravity.
"After years of design, analysis and testing, it is fantastic to see the rover on her wheels for the first time," Ben Riggs, a mechanical systems engineer working on Mars 2020 at JPL, said in a statement. "The whole team looks forward to seeing her in the same configuration on Mars in the not too distant future."
The rover's black, tubular legs are made of titanium, while the wheels are aluminum. The wheels in the video, however, are engineering models that will be replaced with flight versions before launch, which is currently set for next July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rover will blast off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and land on Mars at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.
You can see more of how the rover came together in past videos. If all goes well, the Mars 2020 Rover will further the search for signs of microbial life on our nearest planetary neighbor, ahead of planned human visitors for the first time. Elon Musk and SpaceX are aiming to put footsteps on Mars in the 2020s, while NASA is looking at a 2030s timeframe.
It's always good to know what you're walking into when visiting someplace for the first time.