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NASA and Hollywood collaborate on a concept manned Mars rover to inspire the next generation

An artist's concept of the unnamed rover for the Mars 2020 mission

In the December of 2012, a mere few months after the Curiosity rover touched down on the Martian surface, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced its next mission to the red planet: Mars 2020.

Mars 2020 intends to land yet another rover on Mars, but the mission focuses on investigating the possibility of past life on Mars while also assessing its past habitability. It’s a similar mission to the Curiosity rover, with the key difference being the array of scientific instruments onboard.

Microsoft’s HoloLens played a part in designing the yet-to-be-named rover; while NASA showcased an artist’s concept of the rover two weeks ago, the agency is yet to decide on a landing site for it but has shortlisted three candidates.

NASA, however, has also been working on something slightly less practical – a concept manned vehicle designed for Mars, that will never go to Mars; debuted at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex during its “Summer of Mars” promotion, the “fierce new Mars rover concept vehicle” is a “scientifically-themed outreach tool which incorporates technology that could be used by astronauts to explore Mars.”

As the video above shows, the vehicle looks like something straight out of Hollywood – that’s because it was designed and built by Shanon and Marc Parker. The duo designs and creates movie props for Hollywood, with their most notable work being the futuristic motorcycles in the movie Tron.

In an interview with CBS, Marc elaborated just how much effort went into building this vehicle:

"There is almost nothing on this vehicle that was not built in our shop. I mean, down to every little bracket and tab, nothing was ordered out of a catalog. We built the body, the chassis, the suspension, the wheels, the frame, the interior, the seats, the glass -- everything on this vehicle had to be built completely from scratch.”

However, the vehicle’s looks are not (unsurprisingly) entirely practical, as Shanon adds that parts of the concept were “just for design” and made “for it to look cool.”

Inside the concept Mars vehicle

The vehicle itself is made from aluminum and carbon-fiber and is 28 feet long, 14 feet wide, and 11 feet tall. It’s designed to drive like an SUV and is fully electric, powered by a 700-volt battery that's charged by solar panels placed on the vehicle's roof. Inside, it has four seats, with a mock lab in the back where astronauts could conduct experiments. Additionally, the back of the rover can also disconnect in the middle, enabling a team of astronauts to explore and experiment at the same time.

NASA notes that while this exact concept will never land on the Martian surface, “one or more of its elements could make its way into a rover astronauts will drive on the red planet.”

It’s also worth noting that while this project may have incurred some costs, NASA says that its construction was commissioned by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex “without the use of taxpayer dollars.”

The vehicle is on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex this month; in July, NASA will take the vehicle on tour, putting it on display at several locations across the east coast. NASA wants to recreate the buzz that surrounded the Curiosity rover’s landing back in 2012 for the Mars 2020 mission – the Hollywood-esque concept vehicle just might play a part in this effort.

Source: NASA, Facebook (NASA) via CBS | Images: NASA, CBS

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