Lunar Analogue Mission

Field Trials Moroccoo 2018
FieldTrials Moroccoo 2018

Space Analogue Mission

The lab tests will be followed by a final large-scale and highly visible demonstration of all four mission phases in an analogue site. For a duration of 3 weeks, the robot team will be tested in a realistic and very difficult outdoor environment. The analogue site will be in Europe, both to avoid unnecessary costs and complications with customs and to ensure optimal media coverage.

Preliminary site evaluation and trade-off during the first iteration revealed that suitable analogue sites for extraterrestrial lava tubes are not easy to find in Europe. The best candidates that were identified are sites in the Canary Islands. As the islands are volcanic, they all feature lava tubes. Selection criteria for the site are mainly size and form, the weather, accessibility (for both the rovers and the support team), legal constraints (e.g. national parks), and logistics infrastructure available at the site.

A preliminary trade-off analysis revealed that La Palma or Teneriffe may feature the best suited locations. This trade-off is based on a literature study, interviews with locals on site (via telephone) and hands-on direct experience of partners of the consortium. DFKI gathered extensive experience with robotic field tests on the Canaries both during the ESA Lunar Challenge on Teide (Teneriffe) in 2006 and in 2017 when DFKI demonstrated a small rover exploring the lava tube on Lanzarote (project ENTERN). GMV also has extensive experience on the Canary Islands, and in 2019, GMV and DFKI together prepared for the 2020 field demonstration as part of the OG10 ADE project.

At the beginning of WP1.1, a site visit and detailed evaluation of the chosen site will be performed to improve the trade-off analysis and to finalize the choice of site location.

To simulate the lunar lava-tube exploration mission a Lunar Analogue Mission on Earth was defined. It will use a multi-agent robotic teams specifically designed to explore a lava-tube. This CoRob-X ADRES (Advanced Robotic Exploration System) is composed of three rovers, also called Robotic Explorer Units (REUs), with substantially different technical characteristics, a Remote Monitoring Station (RMS) and an Environment Simulation Tool (EST). The involved rovers are SherpaTT (REU-1), Coyote-III (REU-2), and LUVMI-X (REU-3).

The Lunar Analogue Mission comprises surface exploration, exploration of a lava tube skylight, descent into the skylight and exploration of the lava tube form the inside. The different parts of the mission are performed by all three or a sub-set of the ADRES components.

The main objective of this Demonstrator is the design and implementation of an exploration demonstrator to simulate hazardous and/or difficult extra-terrestrial terrain and test the technologies required to plan, navigate, traverse and investigate them. Therefore, the analogue mission in CoRob-X will be organized in the Canary Islands in an area that represents the topography of lunar lava tubes as realistic as possible. The selected site will allow us to test and demonstrate all required capabilities of the ADRES, such as autonomous planning, navigation, and locomotion capabilities. With a fully functional scientific sensor (GPR) that works on Earth as it would work on the Moon, the scientific investigation of the site can be demonstrated realistically.