So you can't actually drive it, unless you consider driving equal to clicking a mouse button, but regardless of what you call it, the Autoweek crew visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA to operate the Mars Rover in a simulated extra-Earth environment. The Rovers are powered by lithium-ion batteries driving 20-watt DC motors, and are capable of cruising the Red Planet at speeds approaching 0.1 miles per hour. Apparently, although various geeks would like us to think it's super-technical, piloting a Rover is akin to picking a direction and saying "go." The tricky part comes in analyzing the data imagery to assess terrain to insure that the Rover doesn't get stuck in a hole or on a boulder. The Rovers are capable of working in both autonomous and driver-controlled modes. When the Rovers first made it to Mars, the JPL teams micromanaged their every maneuver, but eventually they simply picked points in the distance, clicked the "action" key, and let the Rover figure out how to get there.




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