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The FIDO Rover

Fig. 1: The FIDO rover during desert testing.
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Fig. 1: The FIDO rover during desert testing.
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The FIDO (Field Integrated Design and Operations) rover is an advanced mobility platform and research prototype for future Mars surface missions planned by NASA. It is primarily used as a test-and-validation vehicle for technology development under the Mars Technology Program. Previously, it has been utilized by the Mars science-and-flight-operations community to conduct field trials aimed at realistic simulation of the 2003 NASA Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission. This included end-to-end mission concept testing and validation associated with autonomous and semi-autonomous in situ science exploration.

The FIDO rover is similar in function and capabilities to the Mars Exploration Rovers, although the MER rovers are about 1.5 times as large and 2.5 times as massive. Solar panels and onboard batteries provide power for each vehicle. From a systems-level viewpoint, there are subtle functional differences between the rovers' designs and configuration in the areas of mobility and sensing for navigation and control. Both designs employ the JPL 6-wheel rocker-bogie suspension and are compatible with respect to motor control and mobility performance, as well as sensing implementations for visual, inertial, and celestial navigation. Less-subtle differences exist with regard to robotic mechanism designs, the most apparent being the mast, which carries stereo imaging systems for terrain surveys and navigation planning, and an infrared point spectrometer for measuring mineral composition of surface materials from a distance. Also, the top-mounted 5-degrees-of-freedom robotic arm is different in appearance but similar in functionality to the MER rover Instrument Deployment Device (IDD), which controls the position, azimuth, and elevation of four arm-mounted in situ instruments.

The FIDO rover carried out 4 field trials during the lead-up to the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, including tests in Silver Lake, California (1999); Black Rock Summit, Nevada (2000); Soda Mountains, California (2001); and Grey Mountain, Arizona (2002).

Fig. 2: The FIDO rover next to models of the Sojourner and MER rovers.
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Fig. 2: The FIDO rover next to models of the Sojourner and MER rovers.
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