|Purpose:||This project entitled « Reduced gravity flights to examine ExoMars rover wheel-soil interactions » aims at studying the effects of gravity on planetary rover driving performance. The entrapment of the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit in soft soil and the tears and punctures in the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover's wheels demonstrate some of the current challenges of roving on Mars.
The project will advance knowledge of how reduced gravity affects wheel-soil interactions for rovers. The terramechanics dataset includes visually capturing soil flow processes below the wheel, contributing to knowledge of regolith geophysical processes in reduced gravity. Better understanding of rover-terrain interactions will have a broad and long-term impact in the field of terramechanics by addressing known problems of using classical approaches in a planetary context. Such advances will also have a broad, long-term impact beyond their field by increasing rover safety and performance, which translates to higher scientific return for future space missions.