ExoMars Rover Sand Trap Mars Terrain Simulator
It’s not everyday that you get to see the ExoMars Rover at work, much less escaping a sand trap in the Earth-based Mars Terrain Simulator. However, that’s exactly what the European Space Agency was able to witness recently. All didn’t go smoothly though, as the rover initially has its front two wheels almost completely buried in sand, but then managed to break free using its unique wheel-walking mode. Read more for a video and a bonus.

This entire run took ExoMars around 20 minutes to complete the 2m drive, since a slow and careful approach is key to overcoming a difficult situation. Martian rovers are have commonly been stuck in sand, and by turning their wheels, they dug themselves deeper, just like a car. The solution is a unique wheel walking locomotion mode that mimics leg movements, where wheel-walking combines motions of the deployment actuators (the legs) with the rotation of the wheels to move without slippage.

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We hope to never need to use wheel walking on Mars to escape dangerous sand traps, but we are glad to have such functionality to potentially safeguard the mission. From a rover operational point of view, this is really our insurance against difficult terrains,” said Luc Joudrier, ESA ExoMars Rover Operations Manager.

Bonus Video