Much like an automobile, NASA’s Martian rovers receive a paint job before they’re delivered to Mars; but that’s about where the similarities end. Unlike your car, a Martian rover needs a precise paint job comprised of specially-formulated paint that can survive in deep space and on the harsh environment endured on the red planet.
It would be an understatement to say that a Martian rover’s paint job is more durable than that of what you’d find on your car. If you look closely at the Curiosity rover’s selfie pictures, you’ll see shiny white paint underneath its dusty overlay. That paint is designed to avoid chipping and behave like a protective barrier that prevents moisture from accumulating beneath it.
NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover will receive the same white paint job because it’s ideal for reflecting sunlight and reducing temperatures. Precisely-cut pieces of masking tape are placed on the rover’s chassis before paint application to ensure that only the necessary components are painted. NASA then scuffs the bare aluminum body to make paint adhesion easier.
After a trained technician applies the paint evenly, the chassis enters a vacuum oven where the paint bakes at around 230 degrees Fahrenheit for three days straight. This baking process helps to cure the paint and ensure that nothing penetrates it – not even Mars’ drastic temperature changes or rough, dusty weather.