NASA announced this week that it will be preparing the launch of 98 more rovers to the surface of Mars following the successful landing of the Perseverance rover last Thursday. The additional rovers are to join both Curiosity and Perseverance, already on Mars, and engage in a “battle royale” operation until only one remains.
The purpose of the operation is said to be to determine the most optimal design for surviving the harsh Martian terrain. Rovers are planned to be dropped at random locations across the planet’s surface where they will then need to scavenge for materials in preparation for possible encounters with each other. Rovers are allowed to make use of whatever they are able to find, including using parts salvaged from other defeated units.
“This upcoming mission takes inspiration from nature in order to utilize a ‘survival of the fittest’ approach and apply it to technological improvements,” stated NASA lead engineer Marvin Glasco.
“While the initial investment will be quite large, what we will be able to learn will go towards important developments that will allow humanity to more successfully traverse Mars in all future operations.”
With the large number of craft set to be launched, rovers will not all be sent at once but instead be sent gradually over time. Series of launches are planned to be divided into “seasons” which will feature different sets of rover designs and upgrades. New seasons will continue to roll out until all 100 rovers have touched down on Mars.
Scientists have expressed concerns that rovers landing earlier may potentially have an unfair advantage due to having more time to gather materials. However, NASA stated that it will be closely monitoring the situation and apply balance fixes via remote software updates if deemed necessary.
The next rover planned for launch, named Baja Blast, is expected to arrive on Mars by the end of the year. Baja Blast will be the first rover design to feature fully addressable RGB lighting and an exclusive cosmetic skin.