The European Space Agency is readying rockets, satellite, and robots to blast into space to probe the secrets of our solar system. The biggest European space missions have been on display at the Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K. this week, and CNET went along to find out what is being planned.
This is a model of the ExoMars rover that in 2018 will fly to Mars and drill below the planet’s surface for signs of life. The rover, developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, will carry instruments to study the geochemistry and exobiology of the red planet. The vehicle will be autonomous, able to navigate to destinations by creating digital maps of its surroundings by processing data from its stereo cameras. ExoMars needs to be capable of making its own decisions because it will only be in contact with the earth during two periods of the Martian day.
Scientists will determine where the rover should drill by combining images from the system’s cameras with data from ground penetrating radar. The rover will drill a borehole up to two meters deep, extracting samples from the Martian landscape, which will be crushed and subject to detailed chemical, physical and spectral analyses in its on-board laboratory. The scientific data will be compressed and transmitted to Earth via a Mars orbiter relay satellite, at a rate of about 100 megabits each Martian day.
The rover will be able to traverse rough and soft terrain. It is driven by six wheels, each of which can be independently steered and driven, as well as being able to be pivoted to adjust the rover height. Inclinometers and gyroscopes also help enhance its all-terrain abilities, while sun sensors will help determine the rover’s orientation and position.
July 13, 2012 11:43 AM PDT
Photo by: Nick Heath/TechRepublic
| Caption by: Nick Heath
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