The Zebro just came back from a visit to ESA in Hawaii, but what was it doing there?
Hawaii offers unique conditions to recreate an extra-terrestrial environment for the locomotion tests of the Zebro. The model sent was a terrestrial Zebro, running the same walking algorithm as the Lunar Zebro, which got to spend almost a month there. The rough terrain was perfect for pushing its skills to their fullest, requiring it to use its c-shaped legs in smart and efficient ways to climb over rocks bigger than itself. The rough terrain tried to stop the Zebro, but proved to not be a decent opponent for the rover.
Apart from locomotion trials, long-distance communication was also tested. The Zebro was remotely controlled by Lunar Zebro members from a mission control room set up in Delft exclusively for this event. This turned out to be more of a challenge than expected. Saviër Atya, one of the present members, quotes: ‘Suddenly we were cluelessly looking at a blue screen that later turned out to be the sky as the Zebro was inclined upwards.’
The Zebro got invited to the HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) by ESA’s EuroMoonMars project and got taken care of by Robert Heemskerk, an “Astronaut” who was there for the EMMIHS-III mission. Other interplanetary rovers were also present on this mission.
The results of this mission provided a lot of insight into Zebro’s walking capabilities, which is helping the team even further to improve it. Apart from that, the team was also amazed by the rover autonomously walking into present Lava Tubes to explore them, almost as if it can’t wait to explore Lunar caves.