Small rover exploration capabilities

J. Salotti, C. Laithier, B. Machut, A. van Marie, A. Bruneau, G. Groemer, B.H. Foing

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


For a human mission to the Moon or Mars, an important question is to determine the best strategy for the choice of surface vehicles. Recent studies suggest that the first missions to Mars will be strongly constrained and that only small unpressurized vehicles will be available. We analyze the exploration capabilities and limitations of small surface vehicles from the user perspective. Following the "human centered design" paradigm, the team focused on human systems interactions and conducted the following experiments:- The Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) coordinated a Mars analog research program in Morocco in February 2013. During this 23-nation expedition, we studied surface mobility aspects in challenging terrains also to be expected on Mars. Two test subjects in high-fidelity spacesuit simulators and driving All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV, aka quads) had to traverse various obstacles found in a desert region and answer a list of questions about their vehicle, the obstacles and possible options to go further.- Another member of our team participated in the ILEWG EuroMoonMars 2013 simulation at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah during the same period of time. Although the possible traverses were restricted, a similar study with analog space suits and quads has been carried out.- Other experiments have been conducted in an old rock quarry close to Bordeaux, France. An expert in the use of quads for all types of terrains performed a demonstration and helped us to characterize the difficulties, the risks and advantages and drawbacks of different vehicles and tools. The vehicles that will be used on the surface of Mars have not been defined yet. Nevertheless, the results of our project already show that using a light and unpressurized vehicle (in the order of 150 kg) for the mobility on the Martian surface can be a true advantage. Part of the study was dedicated to the search for appropriate tools that could be used to make the vehicles easier to handle, safer to use and more efficient in the field to cross an obstacle. The final recommendation is to use winches and ramps, which already are widely used by quad drivers. We report on the extension of the reachable areas if such tools were available. This work has been supported by ILEWG, EuroMoonMars and the Austrian Space Forum (OEWF).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2484-2491
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

PT: J; NR: 21; TC: 0; J9: ADV SPACE RES; PG: 8; GA: CH0ZC; UT: WOS:000353749900010


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