NASA Perseverance

This week was marked by the Launch of NASA’s Perseverance rover. The craft is due to arrive on Mars next February.

Perseverance is the latest in a line of robotic exploration vehicles sent to Mars by NASA, and built by JPL. So, on the lead-up to the launch, I wanted to build something for the occasion.

Open Source Rovers

I looked for plastic models of Curiosity or Perseverance for a quick build, as I might have done as a kid. Sadly, I came up empty on that front. There just doesn’t seem to be as many model kits on the market as there once was.

But during my search, I came across the JPL Open Source Rover project. This is a project built as a teaching platform, meant to be constructed by a team of high school students.

I was instantly hooked by the idea of building a working rover, however… the $2500 budget as a little above me as hobby projects go. But then, there was a glimmer of hope…

In the GitHub Repo for JPL’s rover, there was an end-note about other projects, which talked about a smaller-scale rover that could be built for about $500.

This was Sawppy. There’s great build documentation for Sawppy, and the price seemed approachable. So I decided to commit to a new project, and build a Sawppy clone.

3D Printing? Sure, why not?

So… the main obstacle for me to build either Sawppy or the JPL OSR project was not having a 3D printer. But with my Birthday coming up this weekend, I asked my wife if it was okay to buy myself a 3D printer and call it a birthday present.

She reluctantly agreed, given that the price point wasn’t too terribly bad for the low-end hobby-market printers.

Sawppy’s designer provided a nice Print Overview, detailing the minimal needs of the project in terms of print volume, accuracy, etc. Since it was specifically designed to be built on a low-end printer, the project became that much more approachable.

After a little digging around, I found that today’s popular entry-level model printer seems to be the Creality Ender 3. I picked one up on Amazon for CA$300, as well as a few rolls of filament. Amazon Prime’s free delivery was my driver for going with Amazon for this purchase.

So far, the only other purchase I’ve made for the project is the square-profile aluminum-extrusion beams that make up the structural portion of Sawppy’s frame.

Tomorrow, I get to open up the printer. I figured this was as good a project as any to document on my long-dormant blog, so there should be more articles to come. That makes this more-or-less Day Zero of my build log.