Students’ rovers face simulated lunar missions

ARCh 2021

University of Adelaide team competing at the Australian Rover Challenge 2021

This weekend teams of students from around the country will compete in the second Australian Rover Challenge (ARCh) held at the University of Adelaide. Students will put their lunar rovers which they have designed and built themselves, to the test in a series of missions performed on a re-creation of the surface of the Moon.

“The global Australian Rover Challenge tests students from around Australia to design and build a rover to compete in a simulated lunar mission,” said the University of Adelaide’s Associate Professor John Culton who is Director of the Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources.

From Friday 25 to Sunday 27 March the University’s Maths Lawns on North Terrace campus will be transformed into a lunar landscape for the challenge, with sandy loam, rocks, craters, a life-sized space lander, solar panel arrays and other space props.

The challenges recreate tasks that lunar rovers may face on real missions such as NASA’s next expedition to the Moon.

“The global Australian Rover Challenge tests students from around Australia to design and build a rover to compete in a simulated lunar mission."Associate Professor John Culton

Students from the University of Adelaide, Monash University, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and University of Technology Sydney will compete in the challenge. Four different challenges will test the capabilities of the rovers. Rovers have to be built according to the competition rules and no bigger than one and half metres in size so they fit on the three-metre lunar lander.

“The lunar resources task will test the rovers’ ability to identify and extract resources from the site. Each rover will need to extract a sample of frozen water from one of three sites and return it to the processing plant,” said Associate Professor Culton.

This free event is open to anyone who would like to watch the Australian Rover Challenge:

Schedule over the three-day competition:

Friday 25 March 11:45am - 4:40pm. Post landing task and Fleet Demonstration

In the simulated exercise, the Rovers have just landed on the surface of the Moon and the teams are required to execute a task list to work towards establishing a remote mining operation. Tasks include: exit the lander to conduct a systems check on it and other surface infrastructure and relay any damage to the judges. Then, navigate to and find the location of a supply cache while traversing obstacles and rocks, and initiate the start-up protocol of the processing lander.

Saturday 26 March 9:30am - 5:40pm. Lunar Construction task

Rovers will interact with the local lunar environment using construction bricks to support the mission goal of establishing a permanent human settlement.

Sunday 27 March 9:30am - 1:10pm. Lunar Resources task

Rovers will conduct in-situ resource identification and extraction, investigating up to three potential sample sites to determine if frozen water is present in the samples and, if so, to what extent. The rover will try to return a sample to the processing plant.

The University of Adelaide is a partnership between the South Australian Space Industry Centre (SASIC), supported by the Australian Space Agency and the SmartSAT CRC.

For more information about the Australian Rover Challenge visit the ARCh homepage. A fund has been set up to assist students to succeed at the ARCh and other national and international space competitions and initiatives.

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