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Long before the first human will set a foot on another planet; a reconnaissance robot – so called Rover – will have already been there in advance. Even a manned space mission will still be accompanied by a Rover to decrease the work load on the astronauts. Therefore besides the spacesuit development the work on the space vehicles is always a focal point for scientists all around the world.
The Eurobot Ground Prototype is a mobile reconnaissance robot from the European Space Agency (ESA). The Rover is designed to act autonomously as well as coordinated with the astronauts. As a quick technical overview the vehicle weights 750kg and is capable to transport additional 150kg of payload or an astronaut as a driver. Excellent visibility is guaranteed by two cameras, one for a 360° view and the other for geological mapping. To deal with all kinds of obstacles the Rover is able to turn its rear wheels in a 120° angle and to climb over barriers up to the size of 20cm.
The Eurobot program was started back in 2002 but in the first step to develop a Rover for the use in an EVA in space to decrease the work load on the astronauts and not for use on a surface. The main target was to ensure a maximum of safety for an astronaut during the EVA. In 2008 they divided the program into a space-bound and surface-bound one. In April 2010 Thales Alenia Space – the company in charge of the development – presented the first prototype. Since then the rover has passed lots of tests but only under laboratory conditions.
Through multinational cooperation, the Rio Tinto mission offers the perfect opportunity for all participating institutions, to test there developments or experiments under conditions very similar to the possibly area of operation on Mars. It is expected to gain experience and collect useful data that will help to improve existing and affect further developments. Therefore not only the Austrian Space Forum and the ESA, but also partners from universities and institutes all around Europe are participating.
Exactly the same as with the International Space Station (ISS) (where 13 countries work together), it is very important for earthbound experiments to use the synergies out of this cooperation. Not only the cost but as well the logistical effort would be too high to take for a single research team and especially the experience gained out of this corporate work will strongly contribute to future space missions. Everyone should know, that an extreme complex mission like a manned spaceflight to mars, will only be possible corporately.
This article is available in: German
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