MMTD

The ALTEC Mars Terrain Demonstrator

The Mars Terrain Demonstrator is an experimental area simulating some characteristics of Mars Terrain. This demonstrator has been developed in the frame of the STEPs program in the ALTEC facilities and will be used for the testing of the rovers and landing vehicles on a simulated Martian Terrain. One of the main interesting aspects of this terrain is the chemical composition, which is very close to the Martian Soil, even if the cohesion is slightly lower. The terrain is essentially composed of volcanic tuff which is a good mechanical model of the Martian terrain. In terms of visual appearance the colour is very similar to the pictures received directly from Mars thanks to the two NASA MERs (Mars Exploration Rovers), Spirit and Opportunity. The Mars Terrain Demonstrator dimensions allow the simulation of some operations to be performed on the Martian surface (using a suitable crane for gravity compensation) like the rover mobility, the rover egress and the probe landing. The MTD can be utilized to test rovers with different dimensions and Landers requiring specific engineering support during the operations. This utilization is valid for both long and short duration missions, and allows the verification of the operational parameters by performing of functional tests (simulating the rover egress phases from the landing vehicle) and the study of the mechanical iteration between the wheels and the terrain. In addition it allows the support during the development and the verification of the locomotion elements in terms of performances, manoeuvres, obstacles avoidance and autonomous motion for long and short path, the verification of the operational parameters and the on-board software including the validation of the operations, the connection with a control room able to provide the visualization and the control of the operative parameters, the study and the execution of the localization tests using special cameras installed on the rovers or Landers and the management of the mathematical models. The Mars Terrain Demonstrator will evolve in a more complete infrastructure including: a terrain with a mobile platform; dedicated low temperature areas and areas addressed to the drill; a closed structure to maintain a controlled environment and simulation of different levels of illumination maintaining the external visibility; a dedicated wind tunnel allowing the achievement of low temperatures, low pressure and the simulation of the Martian wind and its effect on the rovers and Landers components; an area dedicated to virtual reality to be utilized for engineering purposes (operations simulation) and for education/public relation activities.