October 06, 2020

While NASA's Mars rover Perseverance travels through space toward the Red Planet, its nearly identical rover twin is hard at work on Earth. The vehicle system test bed (VSTB) rover named OPTIMISM is a full-scale engineering version of the Mars-bound rover. It is used to test hardware and software before the commands are sent up to the Perseverance rover.

Just like Perseverance, OPTIMISM is outfitted with wheels, cameras, and computers to help it drive autonomously. After taking its first drive indoors, the VSTB rover took a spin in the Mars Yard, a dirt field which simulates the Red Planet's surface.

OPTIMISM is stationed in a garage at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, sharing a space with Curiosity's twin rover MAGGIE.

The Perseverance rover is set to land on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021.

For more information on the mission, visit: https://mars.nasa.gov/perseverance/


Mars 2020 Twin Rover Gets to Work


Mars 2020 Test Rover

Mars 2020 VSTB

[Matt Stumbo] The Vehicle System Test Bed is an engineering model version of the Perseverance rover, which means is that it has all the same electronics as Perseverance.

Mars 2020 Rover “Perseverance”

Mars 2020 VSTB “Optimism”

[Matt Stumbo] It’s important for Perseverance to have a twin so that we have a place where we can test things before we actually operate Perseverance.

[Anais Zarifian] Then once we do land on Mars, we need the twin to test out all the sequences and plans that we have for the rover before we actually send them up to Perseverance on the surface of Mars.

[Matt Stumbo] Also, if we have a problem with Perseverance, the VSTB is gonna give us a place to practice how we would recover from that problem.


First VSTB Drive / Sept. 1, 2020

[Anais Zarifian] This is a really big milestone for us today. This is the first time we’ve ever driven the testbed.

[Anais Zarifian] So by driving, we’re validating that mechanically we can drive the rover on its own weight on Earth.

[Matt Stumbo] The VSTB is now ready to drive on the Mars Yard.


[Matt Stumbo] Today, we’re moving the VSTB from its assembly facility to the Mars Yard.

Move to the Mars Yard / Sept. 4, 2020



[Matt Stumbo] I’m extremely proud of what the VSTB team has accomplished today. I’m really excited to see the VSTB out in the Mars Yard. Where we can truly test mobility for the first time.


First Drive in Mars Yard / Sept. 8, 2020

[Matt Stumbo] Today is a great day for the test bed. It’s the first time that we’ve driven Optimism out into the Mars Yard.

[Anais Zarifian] We get to actually drive in the dirt and get this thing dirty and do some mobility testing.




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