A next-generation Mars rover controlled from Germany tours Utah

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Mars is well-known to NASA and European Space Agency scientists as a place with extremely challenging terrain, fraught with craters and machinery-damaging dust. So, when German researchers recently wanted to test how a brand-new rover system performed in the most difficult of topographies, they looked around Earth for a similar environment. They they found it in Utah.

Last November, the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) visited an isolated area near Hanksville, Utah, to work out the kinks on a novel system that combines a hybrid walking-and-driving rover called SherpaTT with an adorable micro-rover called Coyote III.

As you can see in the video above, the system performed well, with the Coyote III sent out to explore difficult terrain like rocky hills and hard-to-navigate crevices, while SherpaTT, which has shorter range, keeps to flatter areas and collected samples for later analysis. Meanwhile, the whole system was being monitored and controlled back in Bremen, in northern Germany.

While there are currently no plans to send the sophisticated machines to Mars (the US already has several there, of course) some of the technologies employed could wind up on future missions to the red planet, or even in practical applications here on Earth such as underwater exploration or in situations where sending humans (think volcanos and such) would be too dangerous.