UK engineers have completed the assembly of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosalind Franklin rover, which will seek out signs of life on Mars.
Rosalind Franklin, which is the result of cutting edge work from UK, European and Canadian scientists and engineers will now be shipped from the Airbus factory in Stevenage, Hertfordshire to Toulouse in France for testing to ensure it survives its launch from Earth next summer and the freezing conditions of Mars when it lands on the planet in March 2021.
The rover is part of ESA’s ExoMars mission to examine the geological environment on Mars and search for signs of life, past or present.
Dr Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “This is a major milestone for this exciting project which demonstrates the UK’s leading capabilities in robotics, space engineering and exploration, as well as our ongoing commitment to the European Space Agency.
“As we hand the rover over to France for final testing, we should celebrate the huge efforts of the hundreds of people across the UK who have been involved in the design and build of the rover and its instruments, which will look for life on Mars.”
Last week the panoramic camera system which will allow the rover to ‘see’ was successfully fitted. With funding and support from the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA), PanCam was developed in Britain by scientists from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), working with the University of Aberystwyth and dozens of other experts across the UK in partnership with colleagues in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and scientists from nine nations.
UK scientists from the University of Leicester and Teledyne e2v worked on the rover’s Raman Spectrometer, a powerful tool for the identification and characterisation of Martian minerals. The UK Science and Technology Facilities Council provided electronics, including the data processing board.
Colin Paynter, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK, said: “Seeing the Rosalind Franklin rover finally leave Airbus in Stevenage is a great moment, and I would like to thank all the teams involved for their efforts in making this happen. This European flagship mission now moves to the next stage for final testing and one step closer to launching to the Red Planet next summer.”