A UK-built Mars rover ‘Charlie’ was test driven at Spain’s Tabernas Desert under remote control from the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire – a whopping 1,000 miles away.
The ExoFiT Mars rover testing team will use a new model called ‘Charlie’ to test hardware, software and to practise science operations for the future European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars rover, which will look for life on Mars in 2021. The team will practise driving Charlie off its lander, identifying and travelling to a geological outcrop, and then sampling the rock with its drill.
During the testing, the ExoFiT team will assess Charlie’s individual systems including the
* WISDOM ground penetrating radar
* CLUPI close up imager
* The Panoramic Camera (PanCam) mast imager which provides 3D maps of the area around the rover and
* the coring drill to take below ground samples identified by WISDOM.
Rigorous testing of equipment and the development of best practice will help to ensure mission success with the future Mars rovers.
The Remote Control Centre (RCC) for Charlie will be hosted at STFC Harwell Mission Operation Centre, with each science team having a remote instrument operator based there.
There will be a follow up test drive in the Atacama Desert in Chile next year.
ExoFiT is an ESA funded project managed and implemented by Airbus Defence and Space, backed by MREP (Mars Robotic Exploration Programme) as a technology development activity.
The future ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to travel across the Martian surface and drill down to determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the Sun’s radiation that bombards the surface of the ‘Red Planet.’