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Britain's "Bridget" rover hopes to explore Mars

Evan Blass

Even though we were pretty sure that the whole "life on Mars" issue had already been settled, scientists are still hell-bent on sending robots to scope out the Red Planet to look for tiny Martians, with the British unveiling a new rover today that promises to school hometown favorites Spirit and Opportunity at that very task. "Bridget," as the six-wheeled bot is known, can supposedly cover in just six months the same 6.2-mile stretch that's taken the American rovers over two years, thanks to a guidance system that allows for greater autonomy and requires less terrestrial control. Designed to compete for a spot on the European Space Agency's planned 2011 ExoMars mission, Bridget sports a two-meter drill, a so-called "life marker chip," and a micro seismometer, among other toots, to help enable the Agency's long-term goal of safely sending humans to our neighbor planet. And because half the battle is just getting there, engineers equipped the new bot with sensors that will let on-board airbags and parachutes guide it to a safer, more controlled landing -- ensuring that Bridget doesn't go MIA like the Beagle 2 rover in 2003, .

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