Image shows a virtual reality impression of a Moon rover test. Credit: Canadian Space Agency


Prototype Moon rover work is being spearheaded by the European Space Agency.

The work is being carried out under the ESA-led Human-Enhanced Robotic Architecture and Capabilities for Lunar Exploration and Science, or Heracles for short.

Heracles is underway as a cooperative effort with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Human-robot partnerships

This collaborative effort aims for the next steps in lunar exploration, studying the potential of human–robot partnerships for exploring the Solar System, beginning with the still-unexplored far side of the Moon.

A prototype rover is commanded to drive in and sample a quarry resembling a lunar site. Astronauts tele-operating such a rover from lunar orbit will help to select better, more pristine samples of the Moon for return to Earth.

Rover testing has been done at St. Alphons de Granby quarry in Quebec, Canada. The Earth site was slightly modified and chosen for its Moon-like landscape. To recreate the difficulty of long-distance communications, the rover has been operated by teams based in Saint-Hubert (Quebec) and Germany.

ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany and CSA took turns operating the vehicle.

Video view

Go to this impressive 360° video of a simulated lunar rover mission from the Canadian Space Agency

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