If you’re looking for a fun project for you or your kids this holiday season, then how about building a miniature “Mars rover”?
Don’t worry, the vehicle isn’t full size, and you don’t need millions of dollars to make it happen. You do, however, need access to a 3D printer as well as around $600 to purchase all of the necessary materials.
Created by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Planetary Robotics Laboratory, the diminutive ExoMy rover is described as the younger sibling of the Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover, which is set to launch to the red planet in 2022.
Once built, the vehicle stands at 42 centimeters high and includes many of the main features of its 2-meter-tall sibling, including a drill, solar panels across its back wings, and a camera mast. Of course, these features aren’t functional, which at least ensures your littl’un won’t be performing any impromptu drilling work around the house.
Some fun can be had steering the vehicle remotely using a gamepad, or web browser on a mobile device, and unlike the full-size rover, the ExoMy kit includes a “face” and several hats should you feel the need to make your rover look adorable.
The source code for the construction kit is available on GitHub, together with a step-by-step guide on how to put the various printed parts together.
“We focused on making the design as affordable and accessible as possible,” ESA’s Miro Voellmy said in an article about the miniature rover. “It uses a Raspberry Pi computer and off-the-shelf electronic parts available online and at any hobby shop. Our hope is that school or university students will make their own ExoMy to become familiar with robotics and learn about the full-sized ExoMars rover.”
He added that the ExoMy rover is a work in progress, with people constantly offering their own suggestions on ways to enhance its design.
The ESA has a special website showing you how to get started on your building project.
The launch of ESA’s ExoMars rover mission has already slipped several times, the most recent change coming nine months ago when the launch date was pushed from this year to 2022. There are, however, three other missions currently heading toward the red planet, launched over the summer by the U.S., China, and the UAE. All three spacecraft are expected to arrive at the faraway planet in February 2021.