Robotics plays an essential role in the exploration of planetary surfaces and deep space. Acting as proxies for human exploration, robots provide the key basic functionalities for the scientific investigation of planetary surfaces: mobility between investigation sites, execution of specific tasks such as the deployment of scientific instruments, and relay of this data to Earth. Although the field has come of age since the early beginnings of Moon exploration with the operation of highly successful Mars rovers, new missions on the horizon are pushing the limits of the current technologies.


Future planetary exploration is calling for the traverse of vast and varied expanses of terrain. While the next Mars missions (ESA ExoMars & NASA - MSL/MAX-C) will play the role of pathfinders to identify interesting sites, future missions such as the Mars Sample Return mission (MSR) will require mobile platforms covering tens of kilometres in a relatively short time (e.g ~10 - 20 km in ~200 days compared to ~20km in 6 years for the current NASA Mars Exploration Rovers). 

 

Addressing directly the needs of these future missions, the FASTER project targets this critical issue of fast and safe traverse though these unknown planetary surfaces.