Replica ExoMars rover completes its first simulated drive

Replica ExoMars rover completes its first simulated drive

The Ground Test Model (GTM) will be used in the Rover Operations Control Centre to help support future mission training and operations. It had already completed important commanding tests while stationary in the Thales Alenia Space cleanroom, and now it has been fully assembled in the Mars Terrain Simulator.

The GTM will play a critical role in the coming months, says the agency, as rover operators prepare for Rosalind Franklin’s arrival in Oxia Planum on Mars in June 2023.

As Mars gravity is one-third of Earth’s so two-thirds of the rover’s 290 kg total mass is absorbed by a ‘Rover Unloading Device’, which is attached to the GTM from the ceiling of the test area.

The test terrain also includes a variety of geographical features, including scattered stones and inclines.

ESA writes:

“The GTM will also be used in the coming weeks for drilling activities. The ExoMars rover is unique in Mars exploration in that it will be first to drill 2 m below the martian surface to retrieve samples for analysis in its sophisticated onboard laboratory. Underground samples are more likely to include biomarkers, since the tenuous martian atmosphere offers little protection from radiation and photochemistry at the surface. Understanding if life once existed on Mars is a key question in planetary science, and at the heart of the ExoMars programme.”

As part of the exercise, the model’s black-and-white navigation cameras took a series of images. See below:

Replica ExoMars rover completes its first simulated drive

ExoMars mission

The ExoMars programme comprises two missions: the first is the Trace Gas Orbiter (launched in 2016) while the second, comprising a rover and surface platform, is planned for 2022. Together they will address the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars.

The launch – via a Proton rocket – will be in Baikonur in Kazakhstan, from 20 September (within a 12 day launch window).

ALTEC – the Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company – is an Italian centre of excellence for the provision of engineering and logistics services. It is owned by Thales Alenia Space and the Italian Space Agency, ASI.

Main image: ESA – The Rover Operations Control Centre (ROCC) is hosted by ALTEC in Turin

See also: Picture of the Day: ExoMars Rover completes final thermal and vacuum tests

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