Airbus Completes Mars Yard to Test New Rovers
Kyle Maxey posted on March 31, 2014 |
Airbus’ basketball court-sized recreation of the Martian surface will serve as the test bed fo...

mars, esa, rover, space, airbusEuropean aerospace giant Airbus recently announced the completion of the ESA’s Mars Yard, an accurate recreation of the Martian surface to be used in the development of new rovers.

Measuring in at 30 x 13 m (98.4 x 42.7ft) the ferrous-hued simulation chamber was built using some 300 tons of sand and a number of obstacles – from dunes to boulders – in an attempt to replicate the conditions that the ESA’s ExoMars rover will face when it lands off world.

According to Alvaro Giménez, UK Secretary of State for Business, “A facility like this enables us to develop sophisticated navigation systems to ‘teach’ Mars rovers how to drive autonomously across the Red Planet. This will be a fantastic resource for the ExoMars rover team and for future missions to come.”

As part of its mission, the ExoMars will be one of the most intrepid members of the Martian rover community, trekking at least 70m across the Martian surface every day. Given all of the trials a rover can face on a foreign world, investing in the Mars Yard could pay dividends for the engineers and scientists developing and using the ExoMars for research.

Beyond its off-world purpose, the ExoMars has plenty of terrestrial value as well. “The ExoMars rover represents the best of British high-value manufacturing,” noted Vince Cable. “The technologies developed as part of the programme, such as autonomous navigation systems, new welding materials and techniques, will also have real impacts on other sectors, helping them stay on the cutting edge.”

If all goes according to plan the ExoMars rover will launch for Mars in 2018. Once on the planet, its suite of analytical laboratory instruments and core drill will add to the already impressive list of equipment probing the Martian surface for life and information on the formation of planets in our solar system.

Image Courtesy of ESA

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