Anakin Skywalker wouldn't like Mars much: "I don't like sand. It's course, rough and irritating and it gets everywhere." Mars rovers probably feel much the same way. The European Space Agency, or ESA, has designed its ExoMars rover to conquer the Martian sand problem. A new video shows how.
The Rosalind Franklin rover () is scheduled to launch in 2022. It has a out how the Mars rover will react to and perform on the red planet. The video shows the stunt-double rover with its forward wheels stuck in sand. It uses a clever wheel-walking method to escape.
"Similar to leg movements, wheel-walking combines motions of the deployment actuators (the legs) with the rotation of the wheels to progress without slippage," ESA said in a statement Friday. "This motion gives very good traction in soft soils and high slopes, such as dunes."
The doppelganger rover performed the sand test at the Mars Terrain Simulator at the Thales Alenia Space facilities in Italy. The rover team has also tested the machine's abilityas it hunts for signs of past and present microbial life.
Sand traps are a real danger to rovers on Mars. over a month ensnared in sand in 2005.got caught in sand in 2009 and never broke free. The Opportunity rover -- which eventually succumbed to a dust storm -- spent
If Rosalind Franklin launches as expected, it'll reach Mars in mid-2023 and could put its traveling skills to the test on the tough Martian terrain. Said ExoMars rover operations manager Luc Joudrier, "We hope to never need to use wheel walking on Mars to escape dangerous sand traps, but we are glad to have such functionality to potentially safeguard the mission."