This rover prototype, designed by NASA’s Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies, or ARADS, team, is helping test the tools and techniques that could be used to hunt for signs of life — either past or present — on Mars. It is equipped with a drill (far right), a robotic arm (in blue) and several instruments that will test soil samples for molecules that could indicate the past or current presence of life. In this photo, the ARADS rover system is being tested on a surface that includes obstacles such as slopes and rocks, on the Roverscape at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley.
The Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies, or ARADS, project is designing tools and techniques that could be used to search for life one day on Mars or other places in the Solar System. The team’s prototype rover combines the ability to move across the surface, drill down to collect soil samples, and feed them to several life-detection instruments on board. The extreme conditions of Chile’s Atacama Desert provide one of the most Mars-like environments on Earth, where the team can test and refine these technologies and methods.
ARADS is led by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Partners include NASA centers Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, as well as Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, Honeybee Robotics in New York, the University of Antofagasta and CampoAlto SpA, both in Chile, and Spain’s Center for Astrobiology.
Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart