With so many different motors on the new Mars 2020 rover, I'd like to ask if each motor programmed to operate independently or can the different motors operate in sync with each other?

Also, as a teacher, I am trying to help my students understand how many motors there are on either prior rovers or the new Mars 2020.

  • $\begingroup$ I made some quick edits to your title and question, can you have a look to double check? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 23, 2019 at 13:55
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Just drive motors for the wheels, or do you want all of the motors on the robotic arm and in experiments as well? $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    May 23, 2019 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes I'd hope the arm motor doesn't turn in sync with the wheels, that'd probably be a problem. Impromptu helicopter. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2019 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ related: space.stackexchange.com/questions/12984/… $\endgroup$
    – amI
    May 24, 2019 at 8:41

1 Answer 1


The Mars 2020 rover, like Curiosity, has an electric motor in all six wheels. The drive system is highly automated, meaning the operators give commands like “move at this speed to this position 2 meters that way, then take pictures of that rock”. This is necessary to avoid issues with light-time delay, which is between 4 and 24 minutes both ways.

Along with a rocker-bogie passive suspension and an automated high-detail proximity terrain scanning system, the rover has an advanced traction control system that drives each wheel independently.

The following is an educated guess: The terrain scan provides an environment for a rover dynamics simulation to run, then the data from the sim is compared to the real-time sensor data on the rover as it is executing a (slow) maneuver. If there is significant discrepancy, the rover stops and waits for human intervention.


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