Designing a Mars Rover

There's a lot to think about!

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The ExoMars’ key mission objective is to look for life or conditions for life – that’s fossilised organic materials, gases like methane and water or at least signs of water.

So designing robots for Mars is a big job – they have a lot of work to do – and they’ll be up there all alone.

There’s a number of key skills a robot will need to have…

Communication

Communication between scientists on Earth and the robots on Mars is going to be very important. This is done with satellites – but because of the distance from Earth to Mars, it can be a bit tricky.

Managing in the environment

There’s lots of natural things which can cause humans, not least robots, to have to work hard.  The temperature on Mars is much colder than on Earth – as much as minus 70 degrees at night. It’s also VERY dusty, which can cause problems for the instruments. And then there’s quite a lot of radiation.

All the very delicate gadgets and computer technology that the robot will use, well Mars will pose quite a challenge.

Getting around

And with no nice roads to travel along, our robot needs to be pretty tough.  It will need really tough wheels – you don’t want a flat tyre out there!

Navigation is also something to think about – the robot needs to choose its own route rather than waiting for commands from Earth. That’s because of the time delay in sending signals to Mars from Earth, and also because the Rover will have a better view of what’s around it – and any obstacles.

Powering the Rover

Another thing that the designers have to think about is how to power your robot.  You can’t take power sources to Mars – they’d be too bulky and possibly dangerous – so solar panels will be used to power the robots.  But remember that dust? Not great for solar panels!

Landing on Mars

Humans have sent over 40 missions to Mars to date – and more than 50% of them have ended in failure.  Problems in landing account for most of these failures – and you can imagine how devastating that is – after all the work done!

So as you can see, there are lots of things to think about before you even start building a rover.  Next time we’ll see how scientists can tackle some of these problems down in the Deep Space High Robotics lab!
You can hear Deep Space High: Destination Mars on Fun Kids Radio or listen to the series below!

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Deep Space High: Destination Mars with support from the UK Space Agency.

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