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ESA team builds self-piloting rover in six months, tests it in Chilean desert

Alexis Santos

Chile's Atacama Desert might not be true Martian territory, but it's close enough for the European Space Agency's new rover. Built by a crack engineering team in just six months, the Seeker rover was created to autonomously roam 6 km of Mars-like terrain and trace its way back. The Seeker just wrapped up a two week gauntlet in the Chilean wasteland using ol' fashioned dead reckoning and stereoscopic vision to find its way, compiling a 3D map of its surroundings as it puttered along. The full-scale rover wandered the arid terrain on its lonesome until temperatures forced it to stop after trekking 5.1 km. The red planet won't welcome an ESA rover until 2018, but those jonesin' for news from Martian soil should keep their eyes peeled for Curiosity's August touchdown.

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