Prototype of the rover for the ExoMars program

Prototype of the rover for the ExoMars program

The sun sets in the week of testing the prototype of the ExoMars program rover called Charlie (foreground). The first of two field trials of the ExoFiT mission took place in the desert of Tabernas (Spain) from October 13-26.

Although Charlie is in Spain, the mission operators and tools were located at a distance of 1000 km in Harwell (United Kingdom). The distance was decisive because the rovers operating on the Martian surface faced communication problems and should be able to conduct scientific operations with the obtained information stock themselves. During periods of disconnection, the rover must continue to observe and send information to Earth.

During the 10-day trial, the team practiced rover control from the landing platform, aiming the mechanism at the objects of interest. Decisions were made on the basis of data transmitted by the rover along with maps of the area. Of course, the team had to face technical difficulties. Precipitation disturbed the course of events and had to adapt and optimize time. In the second week, we managed to complete the activities planned for two Martian days in one day. In the scenarios, we tested a rover radar device, a large-format thermal imager, a panoramic camera and a drill. It is important to understand that once a rover will drill the surface of Mars in order to find signs of life, therefore different versions of events were considered.

During the simulation simulations, the team learned how to fine-tune the equipment and train the mission specialists. All problems encountered during the test period are then re-examined and tested in the second field campaign using more complex operations for the rover. The second dust test is planned to be held in February 2019 in the Atacama Desert (Chile). This is a good site, because it is most reminiscent of Martian conditions.

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