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CADRE Rovers’ Test Drive in the Mars Yard

Two small rovers in a sandy yard. The rover in the back has solar panels fitted to it and white wheels. The one in the front has orange wheels and no solar panels.

Two full-scale development model rovers, part of NASA’s Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration (CADRE) technology demonstration, drive in the Mars Yard at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California in this image from August 2023. The project is designed to show that a group of robotic spacecraft can work together as a team to accomplish tasks and record data autonomously – without explicit commands from mission controllers on Earth.

A series of Mars Yard tests with the development models confirmed CADRE hardware and software can work together to accomplish key goals for the project. The rovers drove together in formation and adjusted their plans as a group when faced with unexpected obstacles.

CADRE is slated to arrive at the Reiner Gamma region of the Moon through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. The network of robots will spend the daylight hours of a single lunar day – about 14 Earth days – conducting experiments that will test their capabilities.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech