Overview of Planetary Rovers
Following successful probes and Landers to the Moon, Mars and Venus, the next step was to build a Lander that could travel to areas of interest. The first was Lunokhod 1 which landed in 1970. This Rover was completely remote controlled and travelled over 6 miles taking photographs of the Lunar surface and performed 25 soil analysis digs using its x-ray fluorescence spectrometer.
Since then Space has incorporated more and more automation, allowing Rovers to react to situations automatically. The largest Rover currently on another planet is Curiosity.
Lunokhod 1 Rover
The Curiosity Rover
The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars in 2012 and has travelled over 8 miles to date. Learn about its adventure in the Pahrump Hills region of Gale Crater on Mars – eyes.nasa.gov/curiosity
For many years robotic rovers were only available to researchers and engineers, but as the technology has shrunk and got cheaper more people have been able to access the technology and in 1998 following ten years of design with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) LEGO released the LEGO Mindstorms programmable brick, an intelligent brick that enthusiasts could use to design and build their own robots and rovers.
These Robots can be used to highlight the benefits of automated Mars Rovers and the use of sensors to carry out unmanned experiments.
Play the Game
Start the Game – Click anywhere on the left to start. Press the Green Flag to restart the Game
How to Control – Use the Cursor Keys to Control LEGO Mars Rover Motors
The ULTRASONIC sensor measures DISTANCES in cm
The GYRO sensor measures ANGLES in Degrees
The TEMPERATURE sensor TEMPERATURES in °C
The COLOUR sensor detects the COLOUR of the surface
ACTIVITY. Record your own readings on a graph from the EV3 Rover Activity Game above (Press T to start the Timer) and record changing temperatures.
We do not see the Rover on Mars, we can only see the data it returns for example:
Compare this to actual Mars Rover Temperature sensor Data
The above data is taken from the NASA Curiosity Website – mars.nasa.gov
Billion-Pixel View From Curiosity at Rocknest
Interactive view of Mars from Curiosity Rover – mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/interactives/billionpixel
Curiosity and Opportunities are the only two rovers currently active on Mars, as of 01/18/2017.
Here is an image showing Rovers and how far they have travelled, Opportunity is currently the longest running and furthest traveled rover on another planet (or Moon).
Further Materials, Resources & Information
Below you will find more resources and external websites related to this lesson.
- kodugamelab.com/mars – Try the free game from Microsoft, Kodu: Mars Edition shows what it is like to explore the surface of Mars, how to program an autonomous vehicle to scan and inspect unique features in the terrain, and allows students to recreate and simulate their experiences after researching a Mars landscape.
- eyes.nasa.gov/curiosity – Learn about the Curiosity Rover and its adventure in the Pahrump Hills region of Gale Crater on Mars
- mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/interactives/billionpixel – Interactive view of Mars from Curiosity Rover
- mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/rover – Curiosity Rover Sensors and other Instuments
- mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/instruments/environsensors/rems – Temperature and Pressure Data from Mars.
Full STEAM Ahead – Space Exploration Education Grant
This lesson has been produced as part of the Full STEAM Ahead Project with the UK Space Agency. We are one of eight organisations across the UK to be awarded to deliver and produce exciting new education outreach activities and projects. The UK Space Agency are delighted to be able to support these projects, which represent a diverse selection of cross-curricular activities that meet it’s education objectives in encouraging children to take up STEAM subjects, raise awareness of careers in space-related areas, and raise awareness of the UK’s exploration programme.