Skip to Main Content
A team of engineers from the Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh has traveled to the Atacama Desert in Chile to test its new concepts and designs for the next generation of planetary rovers to be used in Mars. Using a prototype called Zoe, the team came to Atacama to see how well the rover copes with the kind of terrain its successors will find in Mars. Zoe can roam autonomously and can make some rudimentary decisions about what terrain to explore. Its main task is to hunt for evidence that some kind of microbial life flourished in the planet's warmer, watery past, as well as signs that some of it might have held on to the present day. It uses a fluorescence imager to inspect rocks and dirt for the presence of chlorophyll, lipids, carbohydrates, proteins and DNA. The data collected by Zoe are then compared with those recorded by the scientists using a process known as ground truthing.