The NIU Mars Rover team was informally started in August 2016, and formally sanctioned in July 2017. Five engineering seniors from Northern Illinois University - Matthew Woodall, Tim Olson, Gunnar Beachler, Dan Petschow, and Tom Jareczek - designed, machined, programmed, and worked together to create a rover for their senior design. They received first place for their efforts at the NIU Spring 2017 Mechanical Engineering Senior Design showcase. The club that would follow it was built off their efforts with the purpose of educating and challenging students, and inherited the rover they had built.
That rover was named Picus Martius. If you’re curious about the etymology of the name, it comes from the taxonomy of the Great Black Woodpecker, which the Romans believed to be a Sacred Animal of Mars. After 2 years of valiant service, Picus Martius was officially retired in the Fall of 2018.
After Picus Martius was retired, the team started designing and building our new rover, Ad Astra. The name comes from Latin, meaning “to the stars”. Using lessons learned from the design, manufacture, and operation of Picus, this new rover features many improvements over its predecessor. It draws direct inspiration from Picus, and even inherited some key design elements.
Ad Astra will soon be seeing a rather extensive overhaul/retrofit, including an all new chassis design and electrical system.
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