Students from across the UK have competed in the second Lunar Rover Competition
Seven student teams consisting of over 60 participants from across the UK reached the final stage of the Lunar Rover Competition, which saw them design, construct and test a lunar rover over a period of 9 months before testing them in the technical facilities at RAL Space.
The challenge is based on a potential future robotic mission to a crater on the lunar south pole, and designs had to meet a strict set of engineering and science requirements.
Dr Chris Mutlow, Director of RAL Space, said, "It's been a pleasure to open our facilities to students to give them a real flavour of the rigours of testing for space. This competition provides the right skills and experiences they need to get jobs in the industry, so it's great to see some of the innovative solutions the teams have developed and the effort they've put in. With the UK space sector growing at 6.5% each year we need new talent, like the competitors in the Lunar Rover Competition to come and work with us in the space industry."
The rovers were put through their paces on terrain similar to that found on the Moon at the RAL Space robotics trials area and had to withstand the stresses and strains of launch in the RAL Space vibration test facility.
Several rovers lost wheels in their attempts and one snapped its sample collection arm in half. Those who made it to the crater made use of a variety of designs, including scoops, brushes, and belts, to collect ice samples before attempting the drive home, some making it tantalisingly close to the end before foundering.
The Imperial College London team took first place in the competition and won an additional prize for the best Critical Design Review. Morgan Nightingale, leader of the winning team said “The rover competition has been an amazing and insightful experience throughout the year! We are so thrilled to have won and look forward to improving on our design for next year."