Exploring the red planet: Within the framework of the global exploration roadmap, rovers are very beneficial in reducing the risk and cost of future manned missions to Mars. By taking advantage of fully autonomous driving and sampling of the Martian environment, such rovers will enable the space sector to identify and analyze potential landing and outpost sites for humankind to reach the Red Planet.
Project CRATER will enable autonomous driving of a rover for in-situ inspection of the Martian environment, retrieval of samples, and storage of said samples.
Goals and Objectives
The primary aim of this project is to achieve independent driving of the rover on the test campaign field without any remote assistance. Additionally, soil sampling is necessary to categorize Martian soil, conduct research on the possibility of water, and identify other critical elements. Communication between the operator and the rover is essential to monitor, debug, and remotely control the system in case of any issues with the full-autonomous algorithm. Furthermore, transporting the rover to the ERC field campaign poses a challenge as it must be treated as a payload for an analogue Martian mission. The constraints of volume and weight must be considered, similar to the potential landing operation on Mars.
An important step towards the realization of our project is the planned participation in the European Rover Challenge (ERC) in the year 2024. The simulated martian terrain and challenges that this competition offer will act as a stepping stone for project CRATER to start it’s mission towards autonomy in planetary exploration.
The first step towards the ERC was the design and construction of a rover prototype. Dubbed the ExoWARR, this prototype bases it’s design upon ESA’s ExoMY: an open-source 3D printed rover. The ExoWARR serves as a simple prototype to aid in the development and testing of autonomous navigation algorithms.
European Rover Challenge (ERC)
The European Rover Challenge is an international space & robotics event combining competition of Martian rovers with scientific and technological shows.