Stevenage robot tackles Mars terrain

A space robot built in Comet country has taken a giant leap forward in the search for extra-terrestrial life after it was tested in a ‘Mars Yard’.

Engineers at Astrium, tbe astro-exploration centre in Stevenage, have put their latest �250m ExoMars Rover to the test in public for the first time on a rocky mock-up of Mars’ surface.

The technology being tested enables the machine, which looks remarkably like Disney Pixar’s Wall-E character, to navigate rocks with its six independent wheels which can ‘walk’ around objects. In this way it will be able to guide itself across the planet unaided by scientists on Earth - the first machine of its kind to do so.

Its mission is to drill up to two-metres below the red planet’s surface to look for micoorganisms past or present that have survived the intense radiation on the surface.

Astrium’s Professor Ralph Cordey, who is closely associated with the project, said the tests at ‘The Mars Yard’ in Stevenage were a great success.

“I am very pleased with its performance and very pleased to start showing the world what our probe can do. It’s an amazing mission for Europe, the World and Stevenage,” he said.

The robot is the focus of a joint project by NASA and The European Space agency to reach and study the red planet in 2018.