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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 16, 2009
Space exploration
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Polish Robot Praised in Utah
September 16, 2009 By W.Ż.    
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A Martian robotic vehicle designed and built by students from the Warsaw University of Technology won praise for its durable structure and quality from the organizers and judges of the annual University Rover Challenge 2009 (URC) competition of space exploration vehicles. This international competition was organized by the Mars Society on a desert in the U.S. state of Utah in early June.

The design, called Scarab, was the only European design entered for the competition. The Polish inventors competed against a number of American and Canadian teams who were "supported by extensive experience and academic and industrial centers that have taken part in many space missions," said Mateusz Józefowicz, chairman of Mars Society Polska.

According to Józefowicz, despite logistic problems, the project was "very well prepared" and demonstrated that Polish designers can offer competitive innovations. "We have also established good trade contacts and are going to take advantage of them," Józefowicz said.

The vehicle has been built by young designers from the Student Astronomical Circle and Mars Society Poland, in cooperation with institutions including the Industrial Research Institute for Automation and Measurements (PIAP). The team who 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.

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 is able to cover large distances in difficult terrain and perform various tasks.

The University Rover Challenge competition is organized by the Mars Society. It aims to select the best robotic vehicles that could be used to explore the universe in the future. The winners receive prizes and their robots are presented to NASA as potential designs 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.

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

Sebastian Rodak, who coordinated the project, said, "We are going to take part in the URC again next year, hoping to win."

Modeled after NASA's Mars exploration rovers, robots taking part in the competition had 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.

The Mars Society is 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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