Update on the Starchaser Marsupial – the Australian Mars Analogue Rover Project

Graham Mann

Murdoch University, Western Australia

--- Abstract - Profile ---

Abstract: Project Marsupial aims to provide the MSA with a practical analogue pressurised rover vehicle capable of carrying a crew of 3-4 on simulated missions of exploration of up to two weeks duration. Over the three years of its existence, the project has enjoyed its share of successes and failures, which are detailed here with a view to learning lessons about how this and future Mars Society projects might be better organised, funded and managed. Specific lessons learned include (i) that careful specification of requirements should be widely agreed upon early in the project (ii) that (especially used) purchases should be made with care after objective assessment (iii) that detailed design and construction of hardware can be very time consuming {iv) that compromise is usually required among the competing demands of cost, practicality and public relations requirements v) that money donated to projects must be transparently and accountably expended on project resources only (vi) that the MSA should secure tax concession status for its sponsors (vii) that volunteer labour is unlikely to be sufficient - at least for major projects - so that contractors should be added when necessary and viii) that both volunteer and contract workers might be assisted if given 'project boxes' – modular work sets containing everything needed to complete a particular component of the overall system.

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 WA’s Biofeedback Laboratory, he moved to the University of NSW, to study for a Master’s 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. He undertook a pioneering comparative study of analog rovers during Expedition One in Utah in 2003.