May 23, 2001 (41)
Michigan engineers build Mars rover prototype

ANN ARBOR---On the heels of recent NASA announcements outlining aggressive goals for exploring Mars, engineering students at the University of Michigan have begun designing and building one of the first rover vehicles capable of supporting a manned mission to Mars.

Earlier this month, NASA chief Daniel Goldin detailed plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft to Mars to collect and return geological samples to Earth by 2011. NASA awarded $1 million contracts to four companies, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to explore possibilities of such missions. If successful, these unmanned efforts would pave the way for landing human beings on the planet within the next two decades.

Anticipating the need for specialized equipment for manned missions to Mars, Michigan engineering students have already begun development of a vehicle that could carry scientists and research equipment across the Martian terrain. Unlike the used in the Apollo missions, the Michigan rover will allow scientists to conduct extended exploration of Mars in a mobile laboratory.

"The lunar rover used in the Apollo 15 mission was an unpressurized vehicle with limited range," said Anna Paulson, engineering physics student and team project manager. "Our rover will allow astronauts to work in a shirt-sleeve environment while traveling 50 times farther than the lunar rover."

According to Paulson, the vehicle will be able to support three crew members for up to 14 days and have a range of around 1,000 kilometers over rough terrain. The rover is based around the frame and power system of a Light Medium Tactile Vehicle (LMTV) donated by the U.S. Army.

Last year, Michigan was one of three teams worldwide to be chosen for funding by the Mars Society, an international organization dedicated to promoting Mars-based research. The team will present their prototype in August at the Mars Society's annual conference to be held at Stanford University. It will then test the vehicle at the Mars Desert Research Station in Nevada. The habitat and rover will be used to simulate complete Mars exploration missions on Earth.

The U-M College of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top engineering schools in the world. Each year, the College enrolls over 6,000 students and grants about 1,000 undergraduate and 600 master's and doctoral degrees.

Mars Rover Project Overview

small black ballNASA targets Mars as next big step for space exploration. Human beings on Mars could be possible by 2020.

small black ballA team of University of Michigan engineering students is building a prototype rover vehicle that could carry scientists across Mars in a mobile laboratory.

small black ballThe first prototype will be finished by August of this year.

small black ballThe U-M team is the only all-U.S. team to win funding in an international design contest held by the Mars Society. Other teams include the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and a joint effort by several Canadian universities and MIT.

small black ballThe U.S. Army recently donated a Light Medium Tactile Vehicle worth $150,000 to the Michigan team.

Available for Interviews
Anna Paulson, Project Manager (
Office: 734-764-3332 Home: 734-222-9475

Warren Strong, Control, Electronics, Robotics, and Software Team Leader
Office: 734-764-4336 Home: 734-764-1881

Chad Ohlandt, Power Team Leader (
Office: 734-764-7573 Cell: 734-717-3325

Jeremy Burns, 4WDR Team Leader (
Home: 734-623-9276

Useful Web Sites
University of Michigan Mars Rover Team

University of Michigan College of Engineering

Mars Society

NASA's Mars Exploration Site

Contact: Neal Lao
Phone: (734) 647-7087