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Mars Space

ESA Begins Mars Rover Tests In Chile 45

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-they-find-water?! dept.
Zothecula writes "The Atacama desert in Chile is so dry that parts of it are utterly devoid of life down to bacteria. That and its sandy, rock-strewn terrain makes it so similar to Mars that it's a perfect spot for ESA to trial its Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover (SAFER), which this week is carrying out tests related to navigation, remote control and the use of scientific instruments. The agency's goal is the latest in a series of tests to develop technologies and gain practical experience in anticipation of ESA's launch of the ExoMars rover to the Red Planet in 2018."

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ESA Begins Mars Rover Tests In Chile

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  • Soon, on YouTube, a nerd will make a video comparing NASA Mars videos with videos from Chile.
  • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @04:28PM (#45074847)

    The Atacama is pretty inhospitable, especially for people trying to run these tests. They could recreate the conditions in a large indoor lab easily enough. All you need is rocks, sand, fans, and some dehumidifiers. I don't really get why they need to go to the Atacama.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      the terrain of indoor simulation would be small in extents and totally predictable. the 600 square miles of the Atacama doesn't have either problem

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      I wonder what the price tag is to fill a large indoor space with enough sand for a good test. Don't forget we also need to pay for damage to the building from blowing sand everywhere and heating it up to uncomfortable temperatures. Then there's the price to clean it all back out for the next project.

      Compare that to some airfare, shipping, and sunscreen.

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        They'll be testing mars rovers for decades. Something the size of a football field (a standard unit of measurement in the States) would be fine and the cost wouldn't be prohibitive.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)
          "They" are many different teams in many different places around the world, so they'll almost all be traveling anyway. Dumping a pile of sand in a building is just an unnecessary expense for no real benefit.
    • by cusco (717999) <brian.bixbyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @05:10PM (#45075297)

      Fill a building in California with sand and it's rapidly going to be full of microorganisms, even if you bake the dirt first. They fed dirt from the Atacama to the Viking lander that was kept on Earth, and it didn't find life.

      Fill a building with rocks and sand and it's all fluffy and aerated. Ground textures are nothing like real-world terrain. Hills can only be a few meters tall and steep slopes are very difficult to build without additives.

      That's just off the top of my head, I'm sure there are more reasons.

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        The main reason is that the team members like Chilean food. And it's hard to test the rover's Alpaca spit shield in an indoor test facility.

    • by mapuche (41699)

      "The Atacama is pretty inhospitable"

      No it isn't. Atacama desert has considerable amount of wild life, mine workers and tourists. I've been there as a back packer, and you can live there for a few weeks without problems in a shoestring budget.

      • by cusco (717999)

        Depends on where in the Atacama you are. Some places don't even have microorganisms, where it hasn't really rained since the end of the ice age.

  • Pfft (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Our rover's bigger.
  • if you looked at it, you are thinking the same thing i am: this [esa.int] rover [esa.int] is a knock-off of our previous [proftec.com] rover model. [ddmcdn.com]

    also, ours is bigger [usatoday.net] than yours. [wordpress.com]

  • They should put this in Antarctica for a time during the winter. Mars will get much colder than Antarctica, so, it is at least better than Chile's desert.
  • you can control them anywhere you get any sort of cell phone reception, even horrible. I gave one to the Kerbal Space Program guys even. www.f3.to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQYQWzRYJJs [youtube.com]

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