When the Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity – touches down on Mars today, one of the people there ready to take control of it will be Matt Heverly.
Matt is an engineer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and has been working on the design and build of Curiosity, as well as being one of the drivers of the lone surviving rover currently on Mars – Opportunity.
And Matt has been appointed by NASA as the lead driver for Curiosity.
Last week I interviewed Matt about this important role, about driving rovers in general, and about the science work that he’ll be helping with.
When Matt came online, he’d quite literally been in the “Mars Yard” conducting some testing with Curiosity’s twin, and he had parked it right behind himself before joining me on Skype. You can see the rover in the background.
(There are a couple of spots where the Skype signal dropped down and a warning dialogue came over the screen. I wanted to get the interview posted prior to the landing day, so no finessing the video editing…)
There are actually two “twins” of Curiosity used for testing back here on Earth. The one behind Matt is an exact twin is all respects except the plutonium power supply. The other – nicknamed Scarecrow – is a slimmed down version that is designed to weigh as much as Curiosity would in the lower gravity of Mars. It is used to test driving conditions. The following video shows you Scarecrow in action in the Mars Yard:
We also talked about Athlete – a rover design originally destined for the Moon. Check this video of Athlete busting some moves: