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The rover design has evolved considerably since the project commenced. The original competition entry submission featured a large, custom engineered, dynamically shaped vehicle with large retracting wheels known as Wombat. This was superceded by a more easily engineered design HOP (Human Operations Prototype), which could be built with a more accessible budget. Since the project moved to Perth in 2002, the concept was updated to become the design layout known as Marsupial. An add-on robotic arm feasibility study also has been undertaken, tentatively known as the M-Paw.
The current final rover design is for a vehicle that can functionally accommodate a standard crew of 2 for non-science exploration only sorties, with space for an optional third crew member for scienifically focussed field trips. It will also be able to operate in an emergency mode which entails accommodating four crew members for overnight periods.
The rear section containing living and work spaces will be detachable and capable of operating for short periods as a portable emergency shelter. In this mode the rear tray of the vehicle may then be adapted to carry payloads or other equipment such as a small crane.
Stage 1 involved the purchase of a suitable vehicle chassis, and its refit and modification for use as the Marsupial rover.
Stage 2 is underway concurrently with Stage 3. It involves the design and construction of a plastic body to make the machine into an eye-catching, yet functional Mars rover. Most importantly it must effectively serve our needs as a test vehicle for trying out exploration strategies, equipment tests and plausible surface operation scenarios.
Stage 3 will complete an interior fit out of the vehicle. This will involve the purchase and installation of interior lighting, communications station, storage cabinets, bunks, spacesuit lockers, sink and toilet facilities. In effect, the vehicle will turn into a self- contained camper, ready for travel across the simulated Martian landscape.
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