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: NASA tests Mars rover prototype in Chile

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

Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

18 hours ago

This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… ...

Rosetta instrument commissioning continues

18 hours ago

We're now in week four of six dedicated to commissioning Rosetta's science instruments after the long hibernation period, with the majority now having completed at least a first initial switch on.

Astronaut salary

19 hours ago

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

Apr 16, 2014

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...