While the Mars rover Curiosity explores the red planet, those of us here on Earth can see a replica of the vehicle made by Jim Arbaugh at the Science Discovery Center in Santa Anna, and later this week in Arizona State University’s new research building, Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV.
Arbaugh has spent much of the last year working on the two replicas, the one on exhibit in Orange County and the other, more sophisticated model to be transported to ASU.
Curiosity weighs nearly 2,000 pounds including 180 pounds of scientific instruments. It is 9 feet, 6 inches long, nearly 9 feet wide and a little over 7 feet tall. Arbaugh's version matches the dimensions of the real thing except it weigh 450 pounds. It fills the space of one car in his two-car garage.
Kip Hodges, director of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said Arbaugh was recommended to him by the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. Hodges has seen pictures of Arbaugh's work on the rover. “It's truly spectacular,” said Hodges. “I think this is worth every penny.”
On Aug. 31, Arbaugh will disassemble his 450-pound project, load it on a truck and drive it to Tempe, Ariz. The rover will be installed over the Labor Day weekend.
Before he started work on the first model, he had to be given a security clearance. Then JPL handed over plans to him. The first model on display in Orange County took three months to build. The model he's done for Arizona State is “a complete replica down to the instrumentation,” he said. “The one I did for the Discovery Science Center represented a mock up. This is representative of the actual vehicle on Mars with as much information as I could gather.”