The open source movement has been a fixture in the software and electronics worlds for over a decade now. Open source components serve as the basis from everything from 3D printed Iron Man figures to the Linux computer operating system. Now there’s a new open source project that ambitious creatives can undertake: building their very own Mars Curiosity Rover.
The project is the brainchild of Jakob Krantz, who has hosted the project on Github, a common repository for open source projects. All the components needed to recreate the scale model of the rover are available for free, including drawings for 3D printing the housing and code to run the rover’s functional camera.
Jakob has been working on the project for a number of years at this point, and his efforts are being tracked by Hackaday, one of the Meccas of the maker movement. His progress has proved steady, recently integrating custom controls and data reporting via a smartphone app, and interfacing with the rover using ESP32 and LoRa, two common long distance wireless communication techniques.
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Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) the open-source version of the rover scales it down from the size of a full sized car to a frame slightly larger than a RC car. It’s also missing some key components of the rover currently trundling around Mars, such as the thermal radioisotope generator (replaced by a set of lithium ion batteries).
Though all the main components are in place, there are still lots of tweaks needed to make the open-source version of Curiosity as fully functional as it’s larger cousin, including implementing kinematics to control the motion of the robotic arm. Given Jackob’s steady and consistent progress, there’s a real possibility that there could be a fully functional scaled down version of the Curiosity rover roaming around the local Maker Faire in the next few years. If you want to learn more, or want to contribute directly to this open source project, you can check out the Rover’s Github page.