ERJ staff report (PR)
Birmingham, UK - The rocky surfaces on planet Mars would seem to make high-specification rubber an essential requirement for the wheel of any vehicle designed to traverse the difficult landscape without damaging the precision scientific equipment aboard.
But, as the European Space Agency (ESA) team developing the ExoMars Rover discovered, this was not an option due to a ban on the transfer of organic materials onto other planets.
Rubber was the initial material-of-choice for the wheels on the robotic vehicle to explore the ‘Red Planet’, Airbus Defence & Space (ADS) engineer Abbie Hutty said at The Engineer conference, held 3-5 June at the Birmingham NEC.
Rubber wheels are, however, banned under planetary protection rules - apparently because they could leave traces of organic matter that might be misinterpreted as a sign of life by future missions.
The Airbus team, said Hutty, had therefore to develop a metal wheel system for the Rover, which will be sent to Mars in 2018 under a joint European-Russian mission.