The Planetary Analogue Terrain Laboratory (PATLab) is housed in the IMAP building at Aberystwyth University. The aim of the PATLab is to enable comprehensive mission operations emulation experiments to be performed
The PATLab includes a 50 m² landscaped terrain region composed of Mars Soil Simulant-D (from DLR, Germany). This is a mixture of quartz sand and olivine, ground, sieved and re-mixed to approximate the particle size distribution of the Martian regolith. The terrain includes an area for sub-surface sampling and a collection of fully characterised ‘science target’ rocks.
The PATLab is heavily instrumented and its data and control facilities are available remotely via high-speed network links. A Vicon motion tracking system allows precise three-dimensional measurement of the position and movement of marked objects and experimental equipment within the terrain area. In addition, a 3D laser scanner can be used capture the terrain surface in detail.
EU FP7 funding for the Europlanet RI project has allowed the PATLab to become a TransNational Access Laboratory.
Extensive use is made of our half-size rover chassis which is based upon the ESA ExoMars rover Concept-E mechanics. The rover has 6-wheel drive, 6-wheel steering, and a 6-wheel walking capability (thus 3 DoF per wheel), and supports a panoramic camera instrument and a 3 DoF robot arm, in addition to onboard computing and communication facilities.
To augment our PATLab based work, especially when testing our PanCam image processing algorithms, we undertake field trials at the near-by Ynyslas and Clarach Bay beaches. The combination of sand dunes and sedimentary rock faces (sandstone and shale) provides an excellent environment for field trialing our work.