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Mars-like terrain in 'Mars Yard' created to test rovers

By Kyle Johnson,

Scientists in the UK have put together a "Mars Yard" to help test rovers ahead of a future trip to Mars.

The indoor sand pit, which is about the size of a basketball court was put together by Airbus Defence and Space, reports BBC News. The goal is to test a six-wheeled robot, called ExoMars, ahead of its 2018 mission to explore Mars.

Since the robot cannot be controlled in real time when it touches down on Mars, scientists and engineers are using the Mars Yard to figure out the best algorithms to program into the rover.

Airbus' Dr. Ralph Cordey said, "We need to verify the performance, to check that the algorithms and the processes that we're using will actually work."

Airbus' Earth observation and science chief Justin Byrne said, "It takes 20 minutes for a signal to reach Mars which is too slow for good control from the Earth." He added, "This way the rover can get itself out of trouble."

According to CNN, the Mars Yard contains 300 tons of sand. To further mimic the terrain on Mars, scientists chose sand that is the same color on Mars and keep light levels at what they will be on the Red Planet.

While the Mars Yard is in Stevenage, England, the ExoMars will be assembled by several different countries contributing parts for the mission.

 
 

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