A cartoon representation of the sensing objectives of the tactile wheel.
Tactile Wheels will unlock the full mobility and sampling capabilities of future rovers by lending greater confidence in the true state of the rover relative to the terrain while simultaneously enabling new Science and In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) prospecting. This task will develop a wheel incorporating a sensor array that directly maps both ground pressure and the substrate moisture content.
The main goal of the Tactile Wheel task is to create a new type of sensing capability based on a dense array of sensors embedded in the contact surfaces of rover wheels.
Provide Terrain Sensing for Mobility on Surface Exploration Targets
Rovers lack a basic capability that humans take for granted when traversing difficult terrain, the ability to feel the surface with which they are interacting. The Tactile Wheel task will create a wheel that demonstrates the collection of technologies by which rover wheels can be given that feeling, thus enabling much more proficient traverse of difficult terrain.
Provide Continuous Substrate Property Sensing for Science and ISRU Survey
Science goals: The Tactile Wheel would be used to characterize terrain mechanical properties. This knowledge would provide insight into landscape formation and evolution, and also improve models of vehicle-terrain interactions.
Efficient survey for ISRU precursors could be accomplished, and the assessment of regolith water contents throughout diurnal and seasonal cycles would provide insight into modern-day water cycles.