A team of Polish students are among 24 entrants to this year's European Rover Challenge, in which rovers designed to navigate Mars are tested by a panel of experts. Winners of the tournament, held in southern Poland from September 5-7, will be hoping to catch the eye of established space agencies and influence international future rover design. Jim Drury reports.
This is Scorpio 4 - one of the favourites for this year's European Rover Challenge. Twenty four student teams have designed rovers to complete a series of tasks while simulating Mars exploration. Scorpio 4 designer Szymon Dzwonczyk, from Poland's Wroclaw University of Technology, is confident - he says his team's model is faster than any rover to have reached the red planet. SOUNDBITE (English) SCORPIO 4 TEAM LEADER, SZYMON DZWONCZYK, SAYING: "It's not only I think but I'm sure it would go (faster) because our models allow it, our suspension allows it." None of the designs will end up on Mars, but Elie Allouis - a robot expert at space company Astrium - says the contest is important. SOUNDBITE (English) ASTRIUM PRINCIPAL ROBOTICS AND MISSION SYSTEMS ENGINEER, DR. ELIE ALLOUIS, SAYING: "It's always good to have new ideas and this is why, because the students are not bounded by heritage and how it should be done they can actually come up with a lot more of an innovative solution that we may or may not have been thinking about before." Designer Julia Marek says Scorpio's wheels, made to navigate Mars's rugged terrain, are central to her team's strategy. SOUNDBITE (English) SCORPIO 4 TEAM MEMBER, JULIA MAREK, SAYING: "The filling of that is made from styrofoam granulates, so it's also very light, and this whole part is made of cordura. It's a fabric that's used mainly in the army, and all the parts of the design make it really light." Last year the Wroclaw team came second, with Scorpio 3, but say their new design is even better. SOUNDBITE (English) SCORPIO 4 TEAM LEADER, SZYMON DZWONCZYK, SAYING: "Everything is innovative here because we wanted to try some new ideas here and try some new unconventional stuff." Teams from as far afield as Bangladesh, Australia and Colombia are taking part at this week's contest in Poland. Szymon Dzwonczyk says victory could open up possibilities of a career in the space industry. That, he says, would really be out of this world.