First Comparative Field Test of Pressurised Rover Prototypes


Graham A. Mann

School of Information Technology, Murdoch University

--- Abstract Ė Full Paper - Profile ---

Abstract: The conceptual designs, interior layouts and operational performances of three pressurised rover prototypes - Aonia, Ares and Everest - were field tested during a recent simulation at the Mars Desert Research Stationin Utah. A human factors experiment, in which the same crew of three executed the same simulated science mission in each of the three vehicles, yielded comparative data on the capacity of each vehicle to safely and comfortably carry explorers away from the main base, enter and exit the vehicle in spacesuits, perform science tasks in the field, and manage geological and biological samples. As well as offering recommendations for design improvements for specific vehicles, the results suggest that a conventional SUV would not be suitable for analog field work; that a pressurised docking tunnel to the main habitat is desirable; that better provisions for spacesuit don/doffing and storage are required; and that a crew consisting of one driver/navigator and two field science crew specialists may be optimal. From a field operations viewpoint, a recurring conflict between rover and habitat crews at the time of return to the habitat was observed.

An analysis of these incidents leads to proposed refinements of operational protocols, specific crew training for rover returns and again points to the need for a pressurised docking tunnel. A 'leap-frog' incremental development methodology aimed at producing ever higher fidelity rover analogs is advocated.†††††

PROFILE: Dr Graham Mann is an engineer, specialising in robotics and human-machine interactions. After taking a psychology degree and doing research in psychophysiology at the University of WAís Biofeedback Laboratory, he moved to the University of NSW, to study for a Masterís degree in cognitive science, and later a PhD in artificial intelligence. He is currently Senior Lecturer, School of Information Technology, BITL, Murdoch University, and has designed and built a number of innovative robots, including a walking biped and a domestic floor-cleaning machine. Graham took part in the Jarntimarra-1 expedition, is a director of Mars Society Australia, and Manager of the Starchaser Marsupial Rover project.