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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 17, 2009
Space Research
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Polish Robot on Mars?
June 17, 2009 By W.Ż.    
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A Martian robotic vehicle designed and built by students from the Warsaw University of Technology will be the only European design entered for the annual international University Rover Challenge (URC) competition of space exploration vehicles in the United States.

The design, called Scarab, is the first robotic vehicle built by young designers from the Student Astronomical Circle and Mars Society Poland. The team who has built the vehicle is made up of students from different departments of the Warsaw University of Technology: Sebastian B. Rodak, Daniel ¦liwka, Jarosław Lasecki, Mateusz Wolski, Paweł Kasprowicz and Wojciech Głażewski. The vehicle took 18 months to build and cost zl.70,000.

The prestigious URC competition is organized by the Mars Society. Its goal is to select the best robotic vehicle that could be used to explore the universe in the future. The winners will receive a high prize and their robot will be presented to NASA as a potential design for a Martian exploration vehicle. The annual competition is held in the Mars Desert Research Station, a simulated Mars base in a desert in the State of Utah. Discovery Channel is the media partner of this year's competition.

"We have tried to enter our robot for the University Rover Challenge competition three times," said Głażewski. "This time we succeeded. We also hope to have a chance to take part in next year's competition."

Scarab is a remote-controlled Martian robotic vehicle provided with a camera and a grab mounted on a long arm. Its design is fully innovative and takes into account the environmental constraints with which the robot has to cope, the makers say, adding that the vehicle will be able to cover large distances in difficult terrain and perform various tasks.

Modeled after NASA's Mars exploration rovers, robots taking part in the competition will have to perform four basic tasks: an emergency navigation task based on finding a lost astronaut and delivering emergency supplies to him; a construction task based on repairing a loose equipment panel by tightening several bolts; a site survey task based on spotting several distant markers and providing their exact coordinates; and a task based on searching for extremophiles, or bacteria that live in extreme conditions.

Remote-controlled and equipped with a camera, Scarab will be moving across the desert while individual design teams will be watching its route and the surface texture beneath the rover on displays. Under the competition requirements, the robots must weigh no more than 50 kilograms. This means that the existing version of Scarab is not suitable for work on Mars-it is too light and made of materials that are not strong enough.

Mars Society Poland is a chapter of the Mars Society, an international organization that aims to promote the idea of a manned mission to Mars and Mars research. The organization brings together scientists; aerospace engineers such as Robert Zubrin, who has mapped out a plan for the colonization of Mars; astronauts like Buzz Aldrin, who took part in the first landing on the Moon; filmmakers like James Cameron; writers and other enthusiasts-all those who share the vision of human presence on Mars.
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