This week’s selection is the Mars 2020 Rover Perseverance by NASA.
This is an appropriate selection because the actual Perseverance rover successfully landed on the Red Planet the other week in very dramatic fashion. For the first time, video of the landing was provided by NASA through the ingenious use of a number of specialty camera placements.
NASA, as usual, has been especially good in providing access to data on this project. They’ve provided a site where all images received from Perseverance can be accessed almost as soon as they arrive, and it’s possible to download them yourself. I’ve been making panoramas from them myself:
Fortunately, NASA has also provided a complete 3D model of Perseverance in ready-to-3D-print form.
The 3D model includes all of the major components of the rover, which is quite an ungainly structure. This is due to its numerous scientific instruments that populate its surfaces and moveable arms.
It’s a bit of a project to build this model because it requires 3D printing some 40 parts. Fortunately, most of them are fairly simple, such as this high-gain antenna:
Many of the parts are connectors used to join components together, and it seems well-segmented to allow for relatively easy 3D printing.
Unfortunately many of the parts may require support structures due to their unusual geometry. It seems that NASA completely ignored the practicality of 3D printing Perseverance 3D models when designing this rover. What were they thinking?
The many parts will have to be glued together, and NASA recommends super glue. Here is a page of instructions for assembling the main robotic arm:
There’s one not-so-secret Easter egg hidden in this 3D model. If you flip over the main chassis component, you’ll see the basically flat bottom of the rover. However, if you zoom in and look closely, you’ll see this:
I take this to mean that this 3D model was created for NASA by Brandon Summers. A quick search reveals that there was a Brandon Summers who spent time at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an intern working on the Mars 2020 project. Thanks, Brandon!
One pro tip: If you’re intending on 3D printing this model, don’t try to scale it up to life size. The actual Perseverance Rover is a rather large vehicle: its 3m long, 2.7m wide and 2.2m tall. It wouldn’t easily fit in your garage and you’d spend far too much on 3D print material.