This summer scientists will be testing their prototype rover in West Iceland for NASA’s next mission to Mars. With NASA’s funding, twelve technology and engineering students at Reykjavík University will prepare and participate in the testing that is being called the SAND-E project.
The SAND-E project is a collaboration of Mission Control Space Services, Texas A&M University, NASA Johnson Space Center, Purdue University, Harvard University, MIT and Stanford University, in addition to scientists at Reykjavík University. The student team is led by assistant professor of engineering at Reykjavík University, Dr. Joseph Timothy Foley.
West Iceland was chosen as a site of the experiments due to the soil and landscape resemblance to Mars. Outside of Iceland, not many places have dry basalt sands, especially with channels leftover from melting glaciers that mimic the Mars landscape.
For this reason the testing is expected to take place at the Lambahraun lava field, south of the Langjökull glacier.
So far students have been flying drones over the area to collect data, which will later be used to train the rover’s self-driving equipment. There are still some factors to work out such as storage and internet connections, but as the students told the Iceland Monitor, “We’re very excited about taking part in testing [the equipment] this summer.”
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