The JPL MarsYard is a simulated Martian landscape used by the research and flight projects to test different robotic prototypes. This facility provides a large test area and an outdoor environment to test different robotic applications under natural lighting conditions. The soil characteristics are matched to some regions on Mars, and the rock colors, sizes and distribution are intended to match images from our Martian missions.
The MarsYard test area is 66 m x 36 m in size and has a variety of terrain arrangements to support multiple test conditions. The soil is a combination of beach sand, decomposed granite, brick dust, and volcanic cinders. The rocks are several types of basalts, including fine-grained and vesicular, both in red and black. Rock-size distributions are selected to match those seen on Mars. Large rocks are not Mars-like in composition, being less dense, but easier to move for testing. In addition to rearranging rocks, other obstacles such as bricks and trenches are often employed for specialized testing.
Adjacent to the outdoor test area is a new building for housing researchers, computers, measuring equipment, and storage areas for the vehicles. Above the test area is a viewing platform for visitors, where activities may be watched without interference.
The JPL MarsYard was developed by the Mars Technology Program.