NASA's ATHLETE Warms Up for High Desert Run (w/ Video)

July 30, 2010
Engineers test the ATHLETE moon rover on one of the long dirt roads found just outside JPL. Image credit: NASA

Engineers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are currently putting their All-Terrain, Hex-Limbed, Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE) through a series of long-drive tests on the long, dirt roads found adjacent to JPL.

The JPL grounds do not include an unpaved area of sufficient size for testing such a large robot over a long distance. Some of the dirt roads in the Arroyo Seco (a wash located next to JPL) are wide enough for , and its close proximity to JPL allows the robot to be secured in its hangar between test runs.

The engineers want to test the moon rover's ability to meet a milestone of traveling at least 40 kilometers (25 miles) over 14 days under its own power. The official demonstration is slated to begin in the Arizona high desert next month.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

ATHLETE is a 1/2-scale working prototype of a robot under development to transport habitats and other cargo on the surface of the Moon or Mars. The ATHLETE concept is a level cargo deck carried by six wheels, each on the end of a configurable leg. The prototype stands approximately 4.5 meters (15 feet) tall and 4.5 meters (15 ft) wide and weighs about (about 2,300 kilograms (2.5 tons). The moves relatively slowly, with a top speed during traverse of approximately 2 kilometers per hour (1.25 mph).

Explore further: NASA Tests Lunar Robots and Spacesuits on Earthly Moonscape

More information: For more information about ATHLETE, including photos and video clips, visit:

Related Stories

NASA Tests Lunar Robots and Spacesuits on Earthly Moonscape

June 16, 2008

Conditions on the moon will be harsher, but prototype NASA robotic vehicles braved sand storms and unprecedented temperature swings this month on sand dunes near Moses Lake, Wash., to prepare for future lunar expeditions. ...

Beyond Apollo: Moon Tech Takes a Giant Leap

April 9, 2009

The flight computer onboard the Lunar Excursion Module, which landed on the Moon during the Apollo program, had a whopping 4 kilobytes of RAM and a 74 KB "hard drive." In places, the craft's outer skin was as thin as two ...

Free Spirit Testing Nearing Completion

July 31, 2009

Mars rover engineers at JPL are winding down testing of different escape maneuvers using a test rover in a sand box filled with soil to mimic the Martian surface. It is possible that in early August the first extraction attempts ...

Students To Participate In NASA's Lunar Field Test Activities

September 11, 2009

( -- To prepare for human exploration of the moon and other destinations in our solar system, NASA is conducting a field test of rovers and equipment at an Earthly site in the Arizona desert. Hundreds of students ...

Expanding possibilities of lunar exploration

April 9, 2010

( -- Computer science professor's software innovations give NASA robotic explorer extra capabilities, without the cost in time or money to develop mechanical components.

Recommended for you

Dead comets and near-earth encounters

October 13, 2015

Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are asteroids or comets whose orbits sometimes bring them close to the Earth, thereby posing a potentially threat. The asteroid that struck Chelyabinsk last year was an NEO about 40 meters in diameter. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 01, 2010
Neat !
I do hope that they plan to try it in a variety of sand-traps...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.