The ERA Rover Class: Extreme Explorers’ Hall of Fame

Extra Vehicular Activity Robotic Assistant (ERA) rover

Favored extreme exploration environs: Cooperative Remote Interplanetary (Mars), perhaps in tandem with human crews

The ERA is

Extreme Explorers' Hall of Fame
Extra Vehicular Activity Robotic Assistant (ERA) rover Credit: JPL/NASA Robotics


  • high-endurance (rovers function much like a construction crew without a foreman)
  • status now in field trials (Arizona desert)
  • well-instrumented mobile robot (geophone instrument, field mapping are candidate tasks)
  • sophisticated arm (future tasks possible might include the deployment of large optical structures or power stations, as well as setting up camp on Mars before humans arrive and supporting their work thereafter.)
  • advanced software architecture called Control Architecture for Multi-robot Planetary Outposts, or CAMPO (including voice command, visually detects and tracks its goal, identifies nearby objects in its path and works collectively to avoid obstacles)
  • fuel cell technology,
  • designed for tandem maneuvers (on a team) with other robots and humans. Cooperating rovers autonomously can approach, grip and carry a 2.5-meter- (8- foot-) long container over distances of more than 50 meters (164 feet).
  • can also operate on its own with full autonomy, performing tasks to keep the astronaut out of harm’s way and focused on higher-level tasks.

"Mars is hundreds of millions of miles from Earth; we can hardly predict every scenario the rovers may encounter or foresee every rock and hill," said Paul Schenker of JPL’s Robotics research group. "But, it is possible to give two or more rovers a set of instinctively reactive behaviors, a shared network of sensing and control, and a democratic decision-making process that enables them to decide the best action strategies. Call it a case of robots networking for success," he said.

The ERA field testing expedition is a joint effort by spacesuit and control center experts at JSC; communications experts at NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC), NASA Ames Research Center (ARC), and NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC); robotics experts at JSC and ARC; and geology experts at the University of Texas-El Paso, the University of Cincinnati, Bowling Green State University/Ohio, Stanford University and the United States Geological Survey at Flagstaff.

Related Web Sites:

JPL Robotics for ERA-class