Surface Vehicle


Martian Terrain
Lunar Rover
Size and Composition
Modular Trailer System 
Communication and Navigation

Safety Measures

Martian Terrain
Research into the surface conditions of Mars was a necessary first step in designing a vehicle to traverse Mars. This research gave a general feeling of what our vehicle would need to be able to withstand and provided a basis for our initial design. The following is a summary of different geological areas on Mars.
Overall Surface

The Martian surface is characterized by sheer cliffs, jagged mountains, and dry ancient riverbeds. The conditions are similar to those of deserts found on Earth. The surface is also pocked with numerous craters and eroded landmasses, contributing to a firmness of ground comparable to that of compacted sand. The discovery of water ice under the surface in some regions heightens speculations for the possibility of the support of life on the planet.

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South Pole

The composition of the South Pole of Mars, like both polar regions on the Red Planet, is still not yet completely known. It is composed of some combination of carbon dioxide, water ice, and dust. The quick changes in phase (like solid to gas) form visually stunning patterns that have been observed by spacecraft. 

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North Pole

The Martian North Pole is very similar in composition to the South Pole, consisting of phase changing ice, dust, and carbon dioxide. The thickness of the pole is about three quarters of a mile, while its area is about 1.5 times that of Texas. Ice and dust storms constantly pelt the polar regions, as well.

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The issue of canyons on Mars, as on Earth, is heavily intertwined with that of mountains. The largest canyon system is the Marineris one, but its floor is far too rocky and dangerous to traverse in a mission. A better alternative would be to explore one of the smaller offshoots of this large canyon system, namely, the Maja Valles system. Its walls are sheer, not jagged, and its previous role as a floor plain has endowed it with stratifications that comprehensively chronicle the history of the planet.

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The mountains of Mars, such as Olympus Mons, are among the largest in the solar system. Shaped by eons of volcanic and tectonic activity, these ranges cover several thousand square kilometers of the Martian surface and have a major effect on weather patterns. Extremely large valleys separate individual ranges; one of the most impressive is Valles Marineris, which has an area roughly equal to that of the contiguous United States.

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mitCopyright © 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Comments and questions to Last updated: 10 December, 2000