back to article Build your own NASA space rover: Here are the DIY JPL blueprints

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been quietly working on a way to let students and interested hobbyists build a planet-exploring rover that's a scaled-down version of the American agency's six-wheeled 'droids. For the past few months, JPL eggheads have been toiling away on the project over on GitHub, basing their …

  1. Long John Brass Silver badge
    Terminator

    Optional...

    Mount for a .50-cal?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Optional...

      Upvote for the idea, but not at that size. Scale the plans up a fair amount and it might work. However, the .50 cal recoil/vibration is a factor and the gun and ammo isn't light. So maybe need to "over engineer" things like the chassis, power system, suspension.

      Maybe old M60 (7.62mm) might be a better choice. Both the gun and ammo are lighter, lower recoil and vibration. You'd still need to scale it up for the weight etc. but not as much.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Optional...

        Typically guns are mounted on tanks for the reasons you outlined , not lightweigt small scale ROVs.

        Or armoured cars. or jeeps.

        Or as increasingly popular - a Toyota Hilux.

        1. DeeCee

          Re: Optional...

          then replace .50 with something recoilless

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: Optional...

            then replace .50 with something recoilless

            Bren gun

    2. Christoph Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Optional...

      Add the Infra-Red laser (aka Heat Ray) from the Curiosity rover.

      Then take it for a drive on Horsell Common.

      1. teknopaul Bronze badge

        Re: Optional...

        Lots of US readers on the reg these days. :)

        What do you need a gun on a mars rover for, that in case you find life?

        1. WolfFan Silver badge

          Re: Optional...

          Lots of US readers on the reg these days. :)

          What do you need a gun on a mars rover for, that in case you find life?

          Nah. To pay a visit to Congress and to let them know that they have 20 seconds to comply.

        2. Long John Brass Silver badge
          Terminator

          Re: Optional...

          Lots of US readers on the reg these days

          Not a septic; Just a lover of killer robots :)

      2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: Optional...

        "... Infra-Red laser ..."

        No, just a fish tank - let the shark take care of azimuth and elevation.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Optional...

      No, but the blueprints among "optional tools" have a "laser cutter". Don't know if you can mount the laser head on the rover, after cutting the pieces... although you may need to increase the battery size a little.

  2. Joe Werner
    Coat

    The table with the specs...

    First: It is an incredibly cool project, I want an excuse to do this right now.

    However: my eyes! (I mean the formatting of the units)

    See Sec. 5.3 of https://www.bipm.org/utils/common/pdf/si_brochure_8_en.pdf

    Ok, plus the whole weird units stuff, but sure, go ahead, it is a perfectly logical system:

    12 inch = 1 foot

    3 feet = 1 yard

    22 yards = 1 chain

    10 chains = 1 furlong

    8 furlong = 1 mile

    (not sure about the chain vs. yards, too lazy to look it up now)

    Yes, I have some grasp of converting miles, yard, feet and inches to metric, and I'm good enough with fractions to quickly think about which hex bit is the next smaller / bigger one if the one I initially picked is wrong. But still...

    Yes, mine is the one with the SI brochure in the pocket.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The table with the specs...

      You'll also need "furlongs per fortnight" for speed calculations unless you use the El Reg standards.

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: The table with the specs...

      All the design is made using imperial units and tools instead of metric ones. It's just a cunning way to stop those pesky strangers to attempt to build one...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: The table with the specs...

        ISIS' head will explode

  3. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Boffin

    Boo

    Battery Capacity 5200 [mAh]

    That' should be an RTG, which undoubtedly increases the range considerably. As they probably aren't off-the-shelf, where are the plans for one of those, NASA?

    And are there instructions to rad-harden the Pi?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Boo

      >>are there instructions to rad-harden the Pi<<

      - Use a Lead lined Pi box and forget the RTG use a SNAP-8. Plenty of power for a really really big rover.

      Looking forward to the first one of these going into spaaaaace!

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Boo

        "- Use a Lead lined Pi box and forget the RTG use a SNAP-8.

        SNAP-8 is an RTG.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Boo

      The phone I am using right now has a 5200 mAh battery, I can't help but think a bigger battery would make a huge difference.

      For armament a fully automatic bb gun might suit the size and weight, if a reasonable solar panel is included, then one of the electric bb guns would work.

      This rover would suit my land and would definitely discourage the feral cats and with armament would be handy if I could find a way to discriminate against rats.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Boo

        It really needs a pressurized tank with skunk scent and an array of nozzles set about the perimeter triggered by proximity sensors to prevent anything from sneaking up from behind.

        Oh, and either a Stirling engine or a flame licker just because they're neat.

      2. notowenwilson

        Re: Boo

        "The phone I am using right now has a 5200 mAh battery, I can't help but think a bigger battery would make a huge difference."

        Sure, but your phone runs at 3.7V, I expect that thing runs a little higher than that.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge
    3. rg287

      Re: Boo

      That' should be an RTG, which undoubtedly increases the range considerably. As they probably aren't off-the-shelf, where are the plans for one of those, NASA?

      Plans won't help you unless you have ready access to a supply of Plutonium.

      You're probably better off tooling around to one of Russia's unmanned "Atomic Lighthouses" in the Arctic Circle. Although you might have to check a few to find one that hasn't already had the RTG looted by parties unknown...

  4. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
    Joke

    Space rover

    For roving around in space?

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Space rover

      I look forwards to seeing someone riding a suitably upscaled version to work one morning.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Joke

        Riding to work

        Especially if they work at the Mars factory.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Space rover

        You reminded me about the "Big Bang Theory" episode where Wolowitz uses a copy of the Mars Rover to inaugurate a baseball match... it could be a long way to work...

      3. J. Cook Bronze badge
        Boffin

        Re: Space rover

        Ian Emery wrote:

        I look forwards to seeing someone riding a suitably upscaled version to work one morning.

        That would be awesome, but a) work would be over before I got there unless I did some major re-design/upgrades on the powertrain; and b) not sure if it's street legal.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Space rover

      The joke, poor and somewhat obtuse as it is, was that wheels (or tracks, or whatever) don't do you very much good in the vacuum of space. As opposed to on the surface of a planet. Oh well.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Pint

    Kudos to El Reg

    Absolutely no one else put out this story, including the near-dozen space sites I read daily.

    I'll buy y'all a pint in person if you're ever near Orlando.

  6. Cem Ayin
    Joke

    Launch Vehicle?

    A DIY planet exploration rover is certainly an absolutely fabulous idea, but where's the DIY launch vehicle to match? You'll want at least something that can lauch your payload into LEO, so you can land it on your custom-made private LEO-Moon that you are about to 3d-print with the DIY kit you recently purchased at myMagrathea.com...

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: Launch Vehicle?

      Here is a launcher for you:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZxCEkGk6HI

  7. Antonius_Prime

    Looks like El Reg might have a new set of wheels for LESTER...

    And I'm fairly sure his namesake is observing, pint in hand!

  8. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I'm daydreaming ...

    and imagining they did the same for the Apollo craft ...

    Imagine building your own Saturn-V, plus command, service, and lunar modules.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: I'm daydreaming ...

      ... although at 1/6 scale I don't know where you'd find the 1' tall astronauts.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I'm daydreaming ...

        >I don't know where you'd find the 1' tall astronauts.

        Umpa-lumpas in SPAAAACE......

    2. richardcox13
      Coat

      Re: I'm daydreaming ...

      > http://isthepizzahere.com/

      You mean Go Upper f5?

      (Mines the one with ten-hundred words in the pocket.)

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    I'm sure the BOFh and his sidekick is hard at work modding their own version... :)

    Going to show my son this article, he'll be very interested. Maybe we can build one to patrol our smallholding at night and warn us of intruders :)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Add-on item

    Does it have an option for adding a beverage tray?

    1. Maelstorm Bronze badge
      Trollface

      Re: Add-on item

      "Does it have an option for adding a beverage tray?"

      It doesn't come with one, but I'm sure you could use an old CD/DVD drive to add a retractable one.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Add-on item

        "Does it have an option for adding a beverage tray?"

        Perfect my space barge,

        ps. do you know where I can get a gold bikini....... and a princess

  11. carolinahomes

    Trade school recommendation

    There is probably a decent market for these.

    As this is predominately a learning experience, how about if the schools were to line up buyers at material cost and just start building them one after the other. When one sells, build another. Keep it going all semester long and that way everyone will have more and more ideas as they keep building.

  12. MachDiamond Silver badge

    About Time

    This is something I've advocated for a long time. NASA is a publicly funded operation and designs for the hardware they build should be in the public domain. Some things have to remain under wraps, but stuff like rover design and even the software should be available.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: About Time

      NASA is really good about open sourcing stuff.

      Back in my day (Hubble) all the processing software was open source, we were 'strongly discouraged' from using any proprietry libraries like NAG, all the science data is publicly available.

      Most of the hardware is designed by contractors so the designs for eg. a space shuttle, don't necessarily belong to NASA.

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