Mars has always been a highly mythologized planet because it is right next to Earth, and since the first successful flyby in 1965 we continue to know more and more about the Red Planet. Right now there are seven functioning spacecraft on the planet: five are orbiting Mars and two are on its surface. One of the surface crafts, the Curiosity Rover, continues to uncovered incredibly important data and information about the planet for NASA. There are just so many amazing facts that continue to get discovered about our neighbor, and 3D printing is becoming a bigger and bigger part of space exploration due to NASA’s applications of the technology.
About a month ago, we covered NASA’s Mars Trek application which allows users to 3D print the topography of Mars by creating an STL file of any part of the planet. And this is in and of itself a very cool and exciting merging of 3D printing and space exploration. Now, we have another great example of NASA’s ongoing use of 3D printing; NASA has made a Mars “Curiosity Rover” model available free for downloading!
As a recent addition to NASA’s growing body of 3D printable models, the Curiosity Rover has been exploring the Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL) since its touchdown on August 6, 2012. Described by NASA as a “car-sized robotic rover,” the rover is proving to be quite popular. Maybe its 3D printed replica will follow suit?
The Curiosity Rover has been busy for over three years doing many things. Just a sampling from the NASA website has it tracking sun spots, inspecting unusual bedrock, studying rock-layer contact zones, finding nitrogen, and even watching the sunset. Your 3D printed micro-version of the rover will not be able to do all that the real thing does, of course, but you can pretend you are part of space exploration history by possessing one of your own mini-models.
And good news! Since NASA began making 3D printable models available on its website about a year ago, it has also incorporated the fact that people have different levels of 3D printing experience. So NASA has released two types of models: one that is highly detailed and one that is simpler. For example, if you are a teacher or parent trying to introduce the rover to young people while also teaching them about 3D printing, then it might work better for you to 3D print the simpler one instead. NASA also requests feedback from printing the rover on its website, so go ahead and let them know about any adjustments you made while printing it.
And you can also check out information and the latest news about the Curiosity Rover on social media, with all of those links here. Let us know if you’ve decided to print this model out and what you thought. Discuss in the NASA Curiosity Rover 3D print forum thread on 3DPB.com.