Europe unveils prototype Mars rovers

STEVENAGE, England — It looks like a giant sandbox — except the sand has a reddish tint and the “toys” on display are very expensive prototypes designed to withstand the rigors of landing on Mars.

The European Mars rover unveiled Thursday at a “Mars Yard” testing ground in Britain is designed to drill beneath the surface of the Red Planet searching for signs of life. It’s been dubbed ‘Bryan’ by its creators — earlier versions were named Bridget (clad in gold material that makes it look like a garish dune buggy) and Bruno.

The plan is to develop an autonomous robotic vehicle that can be launched in 2018 as part of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars program, an ambitious plan that begins in 2016 with the launch of a Mars orbiter and demonstrator landing module.

The goal is to bring samples of Mars back to Earth by the 2020s.

The rovers being developed at the Airbus Defense and Space facility will be able to drill for samples and “feed” them into an onboard laboratory. The information gleaned can then be sent back to Earth.

The data transmissions could even contain proof that living organisms on Mars had been found, said Abbie Hutty, an engineer charged with helping to make the rover tough enough. The rover’s drill is designed to penetrate six feet beneath the surface, probing an area shielded from radiation and containing water deposits.

“If there was life, that’s where we would expect to find it,” she said.

The rover will be in communication with controllers on Earth twice a day and be able to use transmitted information to navigate to new destinations on Mars. It has a complex navigation system that relies on a pair of cameras mounted on a mast. These map the safest and fastest navigation route, determining which rocks the rover can handle and which must be avoided.

But the rover won’t be fast — its maximum range is about 210 feet per day.

More in Local News

Bicycle tour raises money for dialysis patients

Volunteers also shared health information and put together care packages for homeless women.

Elderly couple escape serious injuries in crash with train

The driver drove down tracks instead of a road, hitting a slow-moving train near Stanwood.

Boeing reaches out to schools

Company employees helped Everett students at recent reading and Manufacturing Day events.

5-vehicle collision sends school bus into ditch; no injuries

No students were hurt when a school bus crashed into… Continue reading

Fire crew returns early from wildfires in Northern California

Four Everett firefighters returned from battling California wildfires late Thursday… Continue reading

Theft lands former insurance salesman 50 days in jail

A former insurance salesman is expected to report to jail… Continue reading

Pair of intrepid musicians climb N. Cascades summits to play

Rose Freeman and Anastasia Allison pack their instruments up mountains for high-altitude recitals.

Everett mayoral campaign is one of the priciest ever

Many campaign donors are giving to both Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy.

Herald columnist Julie Muhlstein (left) and Elizabeth Reed, of Snohomish, share something humorous during an interview at Reed’s Snohomish High School Class of 1942 reunion in September 2016. Muhlstein is marking 20 years as a columnist, with about 3,000 of them published in The Herald. Counting her early days as a reporter and editor, she has been with The Herald for 36 years. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
3,000 stories in 20 years: Here are some of my favorites

As a Daily Herald columnist, I’ve met remarkable people and learned much since 1997.

Most Read