The European Space Agency is testing a rover in an environment similar to Mars
The European Space Agency is proceeding with the proposed ExoMars, a mission that financial problems and design has been delayed to 2018. The challenge: Create an autonomous robot to navigate through the Martian soil.
Tests have already started here on Earth, particularly in the Atacama Desert in Chile, because environmental conditions are similar to the surface of Mars. The Rover team which has been tested is called “Seeker”.
The trial lasted two weeks and the last day he was scheduled to conduct a round trip of 6km. The end traveled 5.1 km, which in the opinion of the experts, is an excellent result.
But what they wanted to achieve? Well get a planetary exploration rover, with the latest technology including an art program to make decisions and navigate autonomously, would make a trip of 6 km in conditions similar to the Martian surface. And besides, it was able to return to the point where he began his journey.
If we think in doing that test on Earth, with all the technologies we have today, seems easy right? As Mars is not.
First: The rovers have to be independent because you can not run from our planet. It takes 40 minutes for radio signals make the return trip. So the solution is to send a set of instructions to follow them so autonomously.
Second: The greater the distance the rover forward more disorienting and at some point you will not know exactly where. And is that on Mars … no system like GPS.
So the only information we have this spacecraft is to know how far it has traveled since it began to move. That is the reason that the farther you go the more difficult it is to return.
To resolve this problem, “Seeker” used a stereoscopic vision system to map the environment and assess how much progress had also plan your route avoiding the obstacles that could find it.
Actually, the ExoMars rover to Mars that will not exceed 150 meters each Martian day and throughout the development of the mission will not travel more than 3km. But they believe that this is only the beginning, in the future want these daily tours are five to ten times longer.Atacama Desert, Chile, ESA, European Space Agency, ExoMars, Rover, Seeker