ESA’s lunar rovers were tested on the flanks of Etna

L’ESA (European Space Agency) and the DLR (German Aerospace Center) have been working for 4 years on a new generation of lunar rovers. Barely a few weeks ago, these rovers passed the important milestone of testing… on the flanks of Mount Etna in Sicily (Italy)! The Lightweight Rover Unit 1 (LRU1), a robot-rover with the look of Wall-E, the Lightweight Rover Unit 2 (LRU2) and its robotic arm as well as the guidance drone ARDEA have traveled the desolate landscapes of Etna being piloted at a distance of 23 km by the German astronaut Thomas Reiter. Eventually, in the still distant future, it will be the astronauts of the lunar orbital station Gateway who should be in charge of this remote control.

ESA Lunar Rovers

The Lightweight Rover Unit 2 (LRU2) rover and its haptic-feedback robotic arm

ESA Lunar Rovers 1024x576

On the right, the Lightweight Rover Unit 1 (LRU1) exploration rover; at his side, a “facsimile” lunar lander

Several missions have been entrusted to the two rovers, such as the collection and delivery of rock samples, the installation of low-frequency radio antennas on the ground or even the establishment of a small astronomical observatory. It should be noted that during these various maneuvers, Thomas Reiter was able to “feel” the various grips of the robot arm of the LRU2 rover thanks to haptic technology. This same rover can also determine the chemical composition of rocks with its laser spectroscope. As Gateway is not expected to be put into orbit before 2030, ESA still has plenty of room to fully develop its lunar rovers.

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