Lunar roving

Space engineer Dr Yang Gao of the Surrey Space Centre is to develop a new generation of lunar rovers with one of China̵7;s top engineers, funded by The Royal Academy of Engineering.

The project will pave the way for future moon shots such as the UK proposed Moonraker lander mission and the second phase of China̵7;s Chang̵7;e programme.

Dr Gao, originally from Singapore, is Lecturer in Space Autonomy at the Surrey Space Centre of the University of Surrey and Head of the Autonomy Research Group. She will be working with Associate Professor Hehua Ju of the Beijing University of Technology on one of the first projects supported by The Royal Academy of Engineering̵7;s new Research Exchanges with China and India scheme.

Gao and Ju will both spend six months working at each other̵7;s universities, investigating onboard guidance, navigation and control systems for a lunar rover that allows the rover to operate autonomously. One challenge is to develop robust stereo vision systems with precision of centimetres and can cope with the bright sunlight owing to the Moon̵7;s thin atmosphere.

They will also investigate autonomous localisation, path and motion planning techniques applicable to the lunar mission scenario. It is part of their plan to establish a remote control station in Surrey and operate during field tests in China of a latest lunar rover prototype.

China̵7;s Chang̵7;e programme, named after an angel in a Chinese legend who drinks a magic potion and flies to the Moon, successfully launched its lunar orbiter Chang̵7;e 1 in November 2007. China̵7;s National Space Agency plans a robotic lander and rover mission as the second phase after 2012.

Image: The Apollo 15 Lunar Rover

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