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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
'Bridget' gets Farnborough eyeful
ExoMars concept image (Esa)
ExoMars is currently in its design phases
Net users who cannot get down to the Farnborough International Airshow this week can see the event instead through the eyes of Europe's Mars rover.

The ExoMars vehicle, due to be launched to the Red Planet in 2011, is currently going through its design phases.

The six-wheeled testbed chassis, dubbed Bridget, is on show at Farnborough to demonstrate how the vehicle would navigate rocky Martian terrain.

Bridget has been rigged with a webcam so surfers can follow her progress.

The 410m (600m euros) ExoMars project was approved by Europe's space ministers in December of last year.

EUROPE'S EXOMARS MISSION
To leave Kourou spaceport, French Guiana, in 2011
Will launch on Russian-built Soyuz-Fregat vehicle
Planetary positions account for 2-year journey
2013 landing will avoid worst of duststorm season
US may be asked to provide orbital relay of data
Mission could yet be updated to include an orbiter
Study of past or present life is a prime mission goal
The current vision is for a 180kg (400lbs) rover that would study Mars' environment and geology.

It will search for traces of past and present life, drilling down into the soil to look for microbes.

ExoMars is part of the European Space Agency's (Esa) long-term Aurora project, which aims eventually to return Martian rocks to Earth for study, and which could one day lead to astronauts being sent to the planet.

The Bridget chassis has been developed by EADS-Astrium, as it investigates the locomotion and navigation requirements of a vehicle that must be capable of operating remotely whilst stationed hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth.

The webcam can be view by clicking here.

Bridget testbed (BBC)


Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk


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