Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ExoMars exhibits self-control in sampling Mars terrain

20.08.2007
Autonomous systems developed for ESA’s ExoMars rover, which will allow it to analyse Martian terrain and identify the best point on rocks to drill for samples without need for human intervention, could treble the speed in which the rover can collect a sample, compared to previous Mars rovers.
In simulations, now being backed up by laboratory tests in the “Mars Yard”
at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, the rover first builds up a three-dimensional model of its surroundings and then analyses each rock for surfaces suitable for drilling. The rover can then calculate the adjustments needed to position its chassis, robotic arm and instruments to acquire the sample.

Dr Dave Barnes, who is presenting results at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam on Monday 20th August, said, “This system allows the rover to do more than find nice flat areas to drill. The versatility of our system and its ability to pinpoint the best site to take samples, even from complex micro-features on rocks, could be vital when looking for evidence of exobiology.”

In recent Mars missions, up to 40% of operations time has been taken up with defining, planning, rehearsing, scheduling and uploading every move that the rover makes on the surface of Mars. For NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, three Martian days can elapse between a target being identified and the rover actually acquiring the sample. The autonomous systems developed by the Aberystwyth team should bring that time for ExoMars down to less than one Martian day.

Software developed by the team, who worked with EADS Astrium on the Phase A study for ExoMars, uses stereo images to build up a digital elevation model and to classify features into six categories: peaks, ridges, passes, planes, channels and pits. The level of detail for each feature can be varied by adjusting the number or data points, the slope and the minimum curvature for the model. The rover selects a suitable surface, then ‘tags’ the optimum drilling point and calculates how to move the instruments at the end of its robotic arm into position.

Dr Barnes said “We are now starting an exciting experimental phase of study with our Concept-E rover chassis model, which has six wheels that can drive, turn and move up and down independently. This gives us eighteen degrees of freedom when adjusting the pitch, roll and yaw of the chassis. We are working on a unified control system for the chassis and the robotic arm, which itself has four degrees of freedom, so the rover can manoeuvre itself to access samples even in hard to reach places. This puts us at a new level of manoeuvrability compared to Mars landers that have flown to date. ”

The Concept-E rover will be operated on the newly completed Planetary Analogue Terrain (PAT) at Aberystwyth, a 50 metre squared sculpted landscape, complete with a drilling pit, covered with soil and rocks that have been selected for their Mars-like properties. Dr Barnes said, “The majority of our work to date has been in simulation but there is no substitute for experiments with real hardware. We are looking forward to repeating our experiments with a real rover and instruments in our new PAT laboratory.”

FURTHER INFORMATION

ExoMars
ExoMars, which is scheduled to launch in 2013, is the first mission in the European Space Agency’s Aurora programme to explore Mars and the Moon. It will search for traces of past and present life on Mars and gather information the Martian environment in preparation for future missions.

The ExoMars rover will carry a comprehensive suite of instruments dedicated to exobiology research. The rover will be able to travel several kilometres during its nominal lifetime of 6 months and analyse samples from with in surface rocks and from the subsurface, down to a depth of 2 metres.

For further information see:
http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Aurora/SEM1NVZKQAD_0.html
University of Wales Aberystwyth
The University of Wales, Aberystwyth (UWA) has been a member of the ESA Mars Express consortium since before the spacecraft's launch in 2003. UWA’s major involvement focused upon the Beagle 2 lander and responsibilities included creating a suite of calibrated 3D software based simulation tools for Beagle 2. More recently, UWA has become a key member of the international teams for both the European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars Rover, and the ESA ExoMars Panoramic Camera instrument.

UWA responsibilities include advanced software based rover/arm simulation and visualisation tools, PanCam image data processing and 3D terrain modelling, rover/robot-arm/PanCam calibration, and the development of new techniques for autonomous rover/arm science sample acquisition.

Planetary Analogue Terrain (PAT)
An award of £0.25M from the UK Higher Education Funding Council Wales has enabled the creation of a new Planetary Analogue Terrain (PAT) Laboratory at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. The aim of the PAT Lab. is to perform comprehensive mission operations emulation experiments. These trials and experiments are essential when learning how deploy science instruments for a given mission using a robot, and hence maximise quality scientific data return. Work has resulted in a unique facility that has a terrain region composed of Mars Soil Simulant-D (from the German Space Agency - DLR). It includes ‘science target’ rocks that have been fully characterised, and donated to the project by the UK Planetary Analogue Field Studies network (PAFS-net). These rocks have been characterised independently, hence results can be compared with those generated using the PAT Lab. robots. The terrain also has an area for sub-surface sampling. The total floor area of the PAT Lab. is 100 m2, and half of this is dedicated to the terrain region.

Anita Heward | alfa
Further information:
http://www.europlanet-eu.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=100&I

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight
16.08.2017 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Tracking a solar eruption through the solar system
16.08.2017 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight

16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Transporting spin: A graphene and boron nitride heterostructure creates large spin signals

16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues

16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>