Wheel tracks now will lead to boot prints later

 

The international University Rover Challenge (URC) was RSX’s first mission. Our mission was dubbed MRSX-1, and on a shoe-string budget, we built our pride and glory, Origin, and even won first place at CSii’s Innovation Nation Robotics Competition.

Currently, we are working very hard on our supremely ambitious next-gen rover. The aim of the URC is to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers that will one day work alongside human explorers in the field. The competition takes place at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah, and is organized by the Mars Society every year. Teams from several countries design and build rovers to compete in 5 tasks, reflective of what may be required of a rover on a real Martian expedition.

We traveled down to the barren, scorching, and desolate desert in Utah to test our rover (and unexpectedly, ourselves) in an array of the most challenging tasks we have ever experienced. Not only was the year-long experience an incredible engineering lesson and personal development opportunity unlike anything we could have experienced in a classroom, the insight we gained into the uncertainty, excitement, and mission critical nature encapsulated in a simulated space mission is sure to be called upon when we participate in real ones – likely not to long from now. The five tasks include the following:

  1. Sample Return Task: Teams need to select multiple sites of biological interest within a 0.5km radius of their base, and collect and return sub-surface samples.
  2. Astronaut Assistance Task: Given approximate GPS coordinates, teams will be required to deliver multiple supply containers to simulated astronauts in the field as quickly as possible.
  3. Equipment Servicing Task: The rover must perform tasks such as measuring voltage across exposed terminals, cleaning a solar panel, reading meters, pushing buttons & flipping switches.
  4. Terrain Traversing Task: Rovers will be required to traverse a variety of difficult terrains as part of an engineering field test of the ruggedness and route-finding ability of the rovers.
  5. Presentation Task: Teams will prepare and deliver a presentation to the URC judges describing their team, rover design and functionality.