Mars Science Laboratory is going to be HUGE The Planetary Society

Yesterday I deposited the baby with her grandmother and went to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a press junket to the opening of their new Mars Yard. (I did ask if I could bring Anahita along but I guess it’s too complicated to get kids under 12 access to the Lab. Too bad, I think she would have enjoyed it!)
The Mars Yard is an outdoor facility where the robotics lab test-drives their rovers. For a long time, it has been an area roughly the size of a softball infield, perfectly flat, peppered with rocks ranging in size from pebbles to a soccer ball or so. This was adequate for developing and testing the Rocky series of rovers that led to Sojourner, the subsequent FIDO and its sister rovers, and the Mars Exploration Rover, but once the rovers were on Mars the robotics lab ran into a problem: there were no sloping surfaces in the Mars Yard for test-driving. They had to truck a bunch of dirt in to the loading dock of the building where they housed the engineering model to build a slope. Clearly, the Mars Yard needed upgrading. Yesterday’s opening showed us the new-and-improved Mars Yard, which was six times larger, contained much larger rocks, and included one area with a variably sloping surface.
All of which was interesting, but that wasn’t the best part of the day. They used the opportunity to unveil to the press the mobility model of the next Mars rover, Mars Science Laboratory or MSL.

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