Researchers enlist help of rover ‘Bruno’ to test for life on Mars

His name is Bruno, he is British, and together with his two siblings he is helping researchers embark on one of humankind’s greatest adventures – the search for life on Mars.

Bruno belongs to a “family” of three rover prototypes – the others are named Bridget and Bryan – which are testing the last word in planetary navigation technology.

In 2018, a six-wheeled machine with a “brain” similar to Bruno’s will be launched to Mars as part of the ExoMars joint project between the European and Russian space agencies.

As the ExoMars orbiter hurtles towards Mars following its launch on March 14, scientists and engineers are working on the rover that will be used in space.

Assembling the mechanical parts and electronic circuits is due to start at the UK headquarters of Airbus Defence & Space in Stevenage later this year.

Speaking at the centre, Dr Ralph Cordey said: “One of the challenges of going to Mars is that it’s so far away in terms of the time it takes radio signals to go there and back – around 40 minutes.

“It’s not possible to drive this sort of machine with a joystick. You’ll crash it. So this rover is designed to be semi-autonomous. It can produce its own 3D map of the area ahead of it, look where it’s being asked to go, and plot its own path.

“It’s aware that some rocks it can’t get over and has to drive round, and it can see ditches and sense what slopes are safe to climb.”

Airbus Defence & Space communications director Jeremy Close said the caves and craters on Mars meant it was more efficient for a human to test the rover.

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