It’s fairly safe to say that almost no one reading this article has ever or will ever operate a Mars rover. If a project being spearheaded by two Polish space enthusiasts gets the funding it needs, however, a lot of people may get to do the next-best thing ... they could remotely operate an actual physical replica rover – via the internet – located in a large room that’s been made up to look like the surface of Mars. That’s the idea behind the Remote Mars Yard project, or ReMY.
Kazimierz Blaszczak and Mateusz Jozefowicz are both active members of the Polish chapter of the Mars Society, and are tireless advocates for space exploration. Jozefowicz has worked with teams of Polish students, helping them get to the U.S. to take part in the Mars Society’s University Rover Challenge – the contest requires teams to design and build fully-functional rovers, and use them to complete a series of tasks in the somewhat Mars-like Utah desert.
Three of the Polish vehicles, which came in 1st, 3rd and 6th at recent challenges, are the inspiration for ReMY. Blaszczak, Jozefowicz and a group of the students are now working on building a smaller rover, based on the three award-winners, that could be used in the project.
Ideally, there will be several of the six-wheeled rovers, which will be located in a basement room in the Polish city of Torun. The walls and floor of that room will be painted and landscaped to resemble Mars, complete with regolith (soil), rocks, and other points of interest hidden throughout the room.
People from anywhere in the world will be able to access the internet-based ReMY Mission Control Center interface, where on-screen controls and output from vehicle-mounted video cameras will allow them to operate one of the rovers in real time. A simulated satellite image, along with video from a “lander camera” mounted in the room, will help users keep track of where they are within the landscape.
People won’t just be aimlessly driving the rovers around, however. Using the vehicles’ manipulator arm, they will be able to collect mineral samples, and then analyze them using an onboard Universal Analytic Tool. Besides the usual mineral hunts, Kazimierz and Mateusz have some special missions planned for their users – these could include things like providing assistance to an injured astronaut.
Presently, the duo are raising development funds on Kickstarter. They plan on launching ReMY this August, but in the meantime need to do things such as building two rovers (to start with), modeling the room, and designing the interface. Supporters will get two hours of operation time per US$10 pledged, when and if the project is completed. A pledge of $500 or more will result in one of the topographical features of the room being named after the benefactor.
More information on ReMY is available in the video below.