The Curiosity rover, the design basis for the Mars 2020 rover. | Image via Wikipedia
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What will the next Mars rover look like?
Krzysztof Skonieczny, one of four new Canada Research Chairs, develops vehicles for the Red Planet and beyond
Krzysztof Skonieczny, an assistant professor in Concordia’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and member of the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation, is the new Canada Research Chair in Aerospace Robotics.
His lab — which has as its mission to study and develop robotics for space — is a Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) project with a total value of approximately $251,892. This includes $100,000 from the CFl, $100,000 in matching funds from the Government of Quebec, and in-kind contributions from equipment suppliers.
What is the goal of your research?
Krzysztof Skonieczny: The main goal of my research is to improve the mobility and capabilities of planetary rovers, by better understanding how they interact with terrain.
An example problem I’d like my research to address is how to prevent rovers from getting stuck in soft sand, like the Mars exploration rover Spirit did in 2009, ending its mission.
What will next-generation Mars rovers and off-road robots look like? Do we need to re-invent the wheel for low-gravity planetary surfaces?
What do you hope will be the impact on society and your field of study?
KS: The hoped for impact includes higher scientific return from space missions by enabling robots to access more challenging and interesting terrains.
This area of research is also meant to help maintain Canada’s global leadership in space robotics, which provides the economy with a supply of high-tech jobs and inspires the next generation of Canadians to pursue science and engineering.
Another applicable domain for this research is off-road mobility and the autonomy of defence vehicles, for enhancing Canada’s security.
Now that you’ve won a Canada Research Chair (CRC), what next steps do you hope to take?
KS: One of my main objectives as a CRC has been to further strengthen ties between Concordia and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Next steps include field testing at CSA’s analogue terrain, a soccer-field sized proving ground for rover technologies, as well as experiments aboard reduced-gravity “vomit comet” flights to simulate driving in Martian and lunar gravity.
Will students be involved with the project?
KS: Yes, I have one PhD and one MASc student currently involved in this research program, with three or four more grad students joining the lab in the upcoming academic year. I also had two undergrads involved last summer.
source : Concordia University