A Mars rover prototype designed by Astrium to advance new interplanetary exploration technology is being put through its paces in an environment that is as close as possible to that of the Red Planet – the Atacama Desert in Chile. Among the driest places on Earth, it lacks any vegetation and its reddish brown soil and rocks give it an eerily Martian aspect.
The aim of these SAFER (Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover) field tests, a project for the European Space Agency (ESA), is to build up experience in operating rovers on a planet.
This rover prototype, affectionately nicknamed Bridget, has been developed by Astrium under ESA’s ExoMars programme. ExoMars will fly and qualify key exploration-enabling technologies within the Martian environment as a precursor to future robotic and human exploration by Europe.
The rover’s six-wheel locomotion system will enable it to move in any direction. Its significant on-board processing capability will allow it to plan its own path across the Martian terrain – using complex algorithms to assess whether to ‘clamber over’ obstacles or to navigate round them. The rover is equipped with stereo cameras so that it can map a 3D image of the surrounding terrain.
Also on board is a drill which will enable collection of sub-surface samples at depths of down to two metres. These samples will then be analysed in the rover’s on-board laboratory.
Source / Author: Astrium