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The engineering team that will drive ExoMars 2020 on the surface of Mars in 2021 has completed a test drive using an engineering prototype, controlling it from more than 6,000 miles away.
Experts at the European Space Agency’s centre in Oxfordshire completed a series of tests across nearly 6,900 miles (11,000 km) in order to see how the Mars rover reacts to commands across large distances.
When on the surface of Mars, the rover will need to be controlled when it is up to 250 million miles from Earth.
The trials team used a new model called ‘Charlie’ to test hardware, software and to practice science operations for the future European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars rover, which will look for life on Mars in 2021. The Atacama desert was chosen because it is the closest we can get to a Martian-like environment.
I must admit that every press release from Europe about ExoMars 2020 gives me worried chills. Each release is often filled too much with empty boasts and little substantive detail. Worse, each seems to repeatedly remind me of some guy working in his garage on a weekend project.
The issue could merely be a case of poor press release writing, but something about each release makes these alarm bells go off in the back of my mind. With the launch only about sixteen months away, I hope I am wrong.