Concept cars are fun, but they’re not really meant to be taken as something that will actually be produced. They exist to get attention, push a new design direction and act as a vanguard for new ideas. They’re exciting. That’s pretty much what was shown at the Kennedy Space Center yesterday: a concept car for Mars.
The concept is called the Mars Rover Concept Vehicle, and it’s huge and flashy and looks more like a movie prop than actual, working space hardware, which tends to be very utilitarian and closer aesthetically to the inside of a water purification plant than something like this, which feels more like Batman’s Tumbler.
If you’re thinking that this feels a bit to slick for something NASA would actually do, you’re right. The Mars Rover Concept Vehicle wasn’t funded or designed by NASA, but rather was built by Parker Brothers—not the sadistic bastards who inflicted the game Sorry! onto an unsuspecting humanity, but the noted team of custom car builders.
Parker Brothers (in cooperation with SeaDek, somehow) have built a replica of Batman’s Tumbler in the past, and while that one was determined to be too crappy to run the Gumball Rally, it sure looked good. Similarily, the Mars Rover Concept Vehicle isn’t going to Mars, and it’s unlikely anything that really looks like it will.
The concept is 28 feet long, and the builders claim it’ll do 60 to 70 MPH. It was built in under five months, and has an interior outfitted with all manner of displays and controls. It’s not specified what’s driving it, but it appears to be some sort of electric drivetrain.
The Mars Rover Concept Vehicle is clearly designed with a certain futuristic aesthetic in mind, and for purposes of promotion and getting people excited about going to Mars, it’s fantastic. It’s not entirely unrealistic, either, with large, airless springy, almost spherical wheels, tons of ground clearance, good approach and departure angles, and a large enough internal volume to make sense as a long-term excursion vehicle.
There’s plenty that’s all theater, though: the wedgy, highly-raked look of the front end wouldn’t make any sense, since aerodynamics aren’t a huge concern on a planet with an atmospheric density of 0.6 percent of Earth’s at sea level. It would make much more sense to maximize the interior volume for the length of the wheelbase, which is exactly what NASA did when they made their prototype Mars rover a few years back:
That’s a lot less sleek. In fact, it sort of looks like a colossal grasshopper corpse re-animated as a cyborg.
The Mars Rover Concept Vehicle may not be the most accurate depiction of what we’ll be driving around on Mars in a couple decades, shooting huge red rooster tails of Mars dust as we tear ass away from the Boss Waterbear, Martian Sheriff, who’s been on us for running Phobosshine from our secret still to the New Tuscaloosa colony over by Hellas Planitia County.
Even if it’s not accurate, it’s a great way to get people excited about space travel and a trip to Mars, which they should be, anyway, because, come on, we’re going to Mars.