NASA launched its latest Rover towards the surface of the Red Planet earlier this summer. That Rover is called the Perseverance and it has a twin that will be stuck on Earth called OPTIMISM. This twin rover is a full-scale engineering version of March 2020 Perseverance rover complete with wheels, cameras, and powerful computers to help it operate autonomously.
OPTIMISM has been completed and moved into its garage at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Next week, engineers intend to take OPTIMISM into the Mars Yard, where a field of red dirt studded with rocks and other obstacles simulates Mars’s surface. OPTIMISM is a test robot meant to come as close as possible to simulating actual missions that Perseverance will experience on Mars.
OPTIMISM will be used to gauge how hardware and software will perform before any commands are transmitted to the Perseverance on Mars. The full-scale earth-bound rover will be useful for completing a full set of software tests to allow the team to send patches to Perseverance while en route to Mars and after it lands.
OPTIMISM is an acronym for Operational Perseverance Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and Instruments Sent to Mars. The name is also a nod to the testbed team’s motto, “No optimism aloud.” OPTIMISM is almost identical to Perseverance, with the same size, same mobility system, and driving speed. It also features the same distinctive remote sensing mass.
It also has the full suite of science instruments, cameras, and computer brains seen on Perseverance. While Perseverance gets power from a type of nuclear battery, OPTIMISM uses an umbilical cord plugged in for electrical power and ethernet connectivity. OPTIMISM also has a cooling system to allow it to operate in the warm Southern California climate reliably.