New lunar rover struts its stuff across Australia

Australian-made prototypes of Moon rovers are touring the country to show off the robots’ autonomous features.

ELO2 Consortium is one of two groups selected to design Australia’s first Lunar rover as part of the Australian Space Agency’s Trailblazer program. Partnering with NASA, the program aims to see Australia’s first Moon mission which could launch as early as 2026.

A prototype rover in sand pit with rocks
ELO2 Rover prototype at University of Adelaide’s EXTERRES Lab. Supplied.

ELO2 started a nation-wide tour in March, showing off its rovers by competing at the Australian Rover Challenge in Adelaide.

From there, the rovers headed to Brisbane in April for testing at equipment testing company EPE’s facility. The rovers’ ability to operate autonomously, navigating without human instruction, and success of mission completion were tested.

The rovers were tested on their handling of bumpy terrains and ability to collect and deposit soil samples. Data from the tests will help engineers understand how the Moon’s gravity, which is about one-sixth that of Earth’s, will affect the operation of the robot.

ELO2’s rovers have also made public appearances including at Lone Pine Wildlife Sanctuary in Brisbane.

The scoop design for picking up lunar soil was chosen through a competition in which 3D-printed designs were tested at the beginning of the year.

“It is fantastic to see what young people can imagine and create through impressive use of 3D modelling techniques. Their imaginations expand beyond ours and allows for outside-the-box thinking,” says project engineer Henry Lourey.

Next up, the rovers will head to Sydney before heading back home to Melbourne for further development.

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