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ESA's six-wheeled Mars bot prototypes ready to kick some martian ass


ESA is showing off its new "ExoMars" bots, Bruno and Bradley, who are being prepped for a 2015 mission to the red planet. The six-wheeled bots are being designed to carry a significant scientific payload, oriented around the search for life, but won't slouch in the maneuverability department, with six independently rotating wheels. In addition to independent movement, the wheels can also be locked into "wheel walking mode," where treacherous terrain can be traversed by crawling instead of rolling over it. On the AI front, Bruno and Bradley have significantly better AI than their progenitors, being able to plot their own courses and therefore cover more ground. The mission will involve traversing the planet and drilling six feet into the ground for soil samples, which the rover will be able to examine in its on-board laboratory. The only problem now is funding: ExoMars is looking to cost about double the 650 million Euros initially approved for the project in 2005, and there's no guarantee (yet) that the extra cash will be there when they need it.

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