Right now, NASA’s Perseverance vehicle is orbiting and collecting soil and rock samples on Mars as part of the NASA-led Mars Sample Return mission, which is being conducted in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). The mission must answer the question of whether there was once life on the red planet.
Danish robotics industry becomes part of space exploration
ESA has just selected the European organizations that will provide crucial robotic technology for the part of the mission where the samples will be moved aboard the rocket that will fly the samples back to Earth before 2033 to be analyzed.
The robot is called the Sample Transfer Arm (STA) and is able to see, feel and make autonomous decisions. It is precisely the development of this that the Technological Institute’s vision and robot specialists in Odense are a part of.
It is the first time that the Danish robotics industry has become part of space exploration, informs the Danish Technological Institute.
“We are proud to be able to take the next step in the adventure for Danish robotics technology. It is a testament to Denmark’s competence in robotics to be selected as a partner in a field of companies that belong to the world’s elite in the development of robots for the most demanding conditions,” says Troels Oliver Vilms Pedersen, program manager at the Technological Institute.
Danish contribution to camera system programming
The Technological Institute and Danish companies must help program the camera system for the robot arm. The robotic arm must go on what resembles an interplanetary treasure hunt and retrieve the samples that the Perserverance rover has been collecting on Mars since 2020.
The robotic arm picks up the samples and loads them aboard a return vehicle, which is flown 57 million kilometers back to Earth. The robot’s task is a so-called pick and place operation, which is not new. But the conditions on Mars are new and unknown to the Danish robotics industry. Therefore, it is crucial that the camera system provides accurate input to the robot so that it can grasp the samples as planned.
The European technology consortium, of which Denmark will now be a part, is led by the aerospace company Leonardo from Italy. Companies from Spain, France, Romania, Greece, Switzerland and the Czech Republic also participate.