Open Sourcing Martian Engineering


One of the more impressive feats accomplished by NASA in recent years has been the plethora of data provided by the Mars Rover. This highly specialized ATV has not only provided some amazing video and images, but its look and maneuverability are just really cool.

The folks at NASA’s Joint Propulsion Lab agree, and recently unveiled the JPL Open Source Rover (OSR) kit that provides specs and a bill of materials for making a scaled down rover of your very own. The open source Rover follows up on the interest garnered from the ROV-E, an educational model of the Mars Rover that made the rounds of high schools, museums, and universities. The biggest appeal of the OSR is that it can be assembled from commercial off-the-shelf parts for about $2,500.

You’ll also need some engineering prowess, particularly on the electrical side, and access to equipment like a drill press and band saw, with stuff like a 3D printer and laser cutter coming in handy if you have them. However, after an estimated 200 hours of assembly work, you’ll have a reasonable replica of the Rover, including the six-wheel steering mechanism and Rocker-Bogie suspension system.

The biggest difference is obviously the size. The $2.5 billion Mars Rover comes in at just under one ton and is about 10’ long. The OSR will weigh about 25 pounds and measure closer to 2’ in length. In addition to building a pretty cool, albeit expensive, model, the open source instructions provide room for customization in the use of controllers, cameras, solar panels, and the power source, including more powerful motors.

The popular Raspberry Pi module is also part of the specs.

JPL published the design under an open source license on GitHub where anybody can download baseline instructions and test plans for building their own OSR. 

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