METERON SUPVIS-M: operations of a Martian rover on 29-04-2016

On April 29, British astronaut Tim Peake drove a rover named Bridget in the Mars Yard at Stevenage, UK from the International Space Station as part of the METERON project that is preparing for future human-robotic missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. He had the challenging task of driving a rover across a sandpit that resembles the Martian surface. Bridget is a development model of the ESA EXOMARS mission.


The Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotics Operations Network (METERON) project supports the development of the so called Delay Tolerant Network also known as Space Internet. The network aims to operate surface robots in real-time controlled by astronauts in orbit. B.USOC, ESOC and UK Stevenage managed the command and telemetry communication flow.

Tim had to look for marked rocks in a dark cave with the help of the rover’s UV lights. He was able to test-drive the rover in the lit area before entering the dark and searching for targets. However, it was not a completely smooth ride as the astronaut encountered some obstacles along the way. Two planned “LOS or Loss of Signal” periods were included in the test as well as a few real unplanned software and driving problems (he drove over a rock that was slightly too big to be handled by the rover). Ground operators successfully recovered from the issues in order for Tim to continue with his target-finding mission.

Despite such interventions, Tim was able to successfully drive Bridget around within the allocated time and find four of the UV-marked targets. Knowing that the success criteria for this experiment was finding three targets! After exiting the cave, returning to the lit area, Tim parked Bridget near another EXOMARS model: Bryan, marking the end of the test.

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