North Carolina State Univeristy

Senior Design

The "Mission" to Mars

For a long time the world has been fascinated by the idea of manned Mars exploration. Fortunately for mankind, rovers were created to explore the unknown. The first successful Mars rover was Sojourner. It was launched by NASA on December 4, 1996, and landed July 4, 1997. Since then, better ways to explore the Martian surface have been investigated.

Wheeled Rover


Traditionally, interplanetary remotely operated rovers incorporate wheeled locomotion powered by solar energy. Unfortunately, solar panels lose efficiency due to dust collection and wheels tend to get stuck. Nevertheless, conventional rovers are still able to complete their mission goals.

These goals include:
• Determine whether life ever arose on Mars
• Characterize the climate of Mars
• Characterize the geology of Mars
• Prepare for human exploration

Due to the scope of the tasks, more efficient methods of exploration are being investigated. For example, a tumbleweed rover could explore the Martian surface powered by the wind. Though there are density and gravity differences between Earth and Mars, the design of a rolling tumbleweed rover is simple, cost effective, and highly reliable.

Project Goals

The project goal was to create a bio-inspired rover. The idea for this rover came from work done previously at NC State. A hybrid design will be created that must be able to deploy from a compact shape and still have retractable sails to allow for control and maneuverability. The rover must exhibit efficient motion and controllability on the Martian surface.

Design Requirements

The current Martian rovers have been successful, but have their limitations. These shortcomings define the requirements for RAD. For RAD to succeed, several key requirements must be met: mobility, deployability, sail retractability, durability, simplicity, and affordability. A full description of these requirements can be seen in the PDR attached in the Design page.

Bio Inspired