Simulating Mars on Earth

Jul 05, 2013
This rubble-strewn model of the Red Planet in ESA's ESTEC technical centre is used to put prototype planetary rovers through their paces. Officially known as the Automation & Planetary Robotics Lab, its nickname is the ‘Mars Yard’. Dutch students explore this alien environment in the photo shown here, part of a series taken by image gallery TechniekBeeldbank.nu. The site offers the media positive images of engineering to appeal to young people.

A little corner of ESA's technical heart that is forever Mars: this rubble-strewn model of the Red Planet is used to put prototype planetary rovers through their paces. Officially known as the Automation & Planetary Robotics Lab, its nickname is the 'Mars Yard'.

Dutch students explore this alien environment in the photo shown here, part of a series taken by image gallery TechniekBeeldbank.nu. The site offers the media positive images of engineering to appeal to young people.

The Mars Yard is housed in ESA's ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in the Agency's Automation & Robotics Section. 

Motion tracking cameras looking down on the 'Mars Yard'. The 8m x 8m Automation & Planetary Robotics Lab is used to characterise the performance of rover locomotion subsystems, test rover navigation and localisation algorithms and well as instrument positioning of planetary robotic arms. Moreover, it acts as a representative environment to evaluate the performance of integrated systems with all these subsystems working together. Accordingly, specialised measurement equipment is used, such as motion tracking infra-red cameras and optical coordinate measurement systems. Credit: ESA

An 8 x 8 m square filled with sand and different sizes of gravel and rocks, the Mars Yard offers a small crater, a boulder field, a sandy dune and a gravel slope area.

This martian testbed serves to assess rover locomotion and navigation as well as the positioning of robotic arms – then check how all these elements operate together in practice, as integration is a major challenge in space robotic systems. 

A prototype rover under test at ESA's Automation & Planetary Robotics Lab (APRL), nicknamed the ‘Mars Yard’. Based at ESA’s technical centre ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, the facility is part of the Agency’s Automation & Robotics Section. The APRL's goal is to prototype automation and planetary robotics related technologies, provide robotics systems integration expertise to combine the research outputs of several robotics activities with European industry, as well as provide the facilities to test rover platforms and planetary robotic arms. Credit: ESA

Specialised equipment for precisely recording the robots' performance includes motion-tracking infrared cameras.

Explore further: Researchers use NASA and other data to look into the heart of a solar storm

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA tests Mars rover prototype in Chile

Jun 29, 2013

NASA scientists said Friday they were testing a prototype of a robot the US space agency hopes to send to Mars in 2020 in Chile's Atacama desert.

Recommended for you

Mysteries of space dust revealed

8 hours ago

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

A guide to the 2014 Neptune opposition season

13 hours ago

Never seen Neptune? Now is a good time to try, as the outermost ice giant world reaches opposition this weekend at 14:00 Universal Time (UT) or 10:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 29th. This means that the distant ...

Informing NASA's Asteroid Initiative: A citizen forum

Aug 28, 2014

In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially ...

Image: Rosetta's comet looms

Aug 28, 2014

Wow! Rosetta is getting ever-closer to its target comet by the day. This navigation camera shot from Aug. 23 shows that the spacecraft is so close to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that it's difficult to ...

User comments : 0