Sunday, May 14, 2006

European Mars rover lands on Tenerife

No, not a wrong turn, but the first tests of the rover destined to land on Mars in 2011. Tenerife serves as a reasonable facsimile of the Martian surface and for the last week, a prototype of the rover has been put through its paces. If all goes well, the £400m ExoMars project will land a six wheeled 40 kg rover which includes in its paylod a lightweight drilling system, a sampling and handling device, and a set of scientific instruments to search for signs of past or present life. In the first weeks of testing, the rover has proven it is generally sound, and despite some technical glitches, has sucessfully negotiated the rocks of the El Teide volcano. The BBC has a full report and video of the rover in action.