Setting sights on Mars

PUBLISHED: 12:27 21 August 2008 | UPDATED: 16:29 05 May 2010

(Left to right) Robots Bradley and Bruno with Ben Boyes and Niki Soper,

(Left to right) Robots Bradley and Bruno with Ben Boyes and Niki Soper,

THE Comet was given a sneak peek of a robot which will be launched to Mars in 2013. Astrium in Stevenage has produced two prototypes for a European rover, one of which could land on Mars in 2015 as part of a European Space Agency (ESA) project. And report

THE Comet was given a sneak peek of a robot which will be launched to Mars in 2013.

Astrium in Stevenage has produced two prototypes for a European rover, one of which could land on Mars in 2015 as part of a European Space Agency (ESA) project.

And reporter Jo Jarvis got the chance to see how they work.

The six-wheeled robots nicknamed Bruno and Bradley are the most manoeuvrable rovers to be built. Travelling at four centimetres a second, they can walk sideways and they have "wheel walking" capability which means they can walk over obstacles such as rocks.

The advanced prototypes are an improvement on Bridget, the original rover built by engineers at Astrium in Stevenage.

They are the result of a competition between two companies to copy and improve on Bridget's design and Bradley, which was designed by Swiss company Oerlikon, has been chosen to set off on the six-month journey to the red planet as part of the £788.7m ESPA's ExoMars mission.

Ben Boyes, lead engineer, said: "It's been in development for over a year and so far it's been very successful. Bradley will navigate its own way around Mars and search for signs of life and study the planet's geology. We hope we get all sorts of exciting information. We will be testing to put things on Mars so we can put man on Mars in the next 30 years."

The ExoMars mission will set off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou in French Guiana. ESA scientists hope it will be as successful as the two Nasa rovers Spirit and Opportunity. They landed on Mars in January 2004 and are still operating.

Liz Seward, a space missions scientist at Astrium, said: "Bradley will be more manoeuvrable and will be able to think for itself. It will also be able to cover more ground and have a drill that can drill two metres under the surface."

In order to complete the project, further funding needs to be made available from the Government because the cost of the mission has nearly doubled since European space ministers approved the venture in 2005.

But scientists at Astrium will not find out whether this will be made available until October.

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