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The future of space exploration comes to Bristol

Bridget, the prototype Mars rover

Bridget, the prototype Mars rover

Press release issued: 20 February 2013

A prototype Mars rover called Bridget will be exploring the terrain of Bristol this weekend as she makes a starring appearance at one of the largest space conferences held in the UK. Bridget is due to play a pivotal part in an expedition to explore the red planet in 2018, but her next mission is to take part in the National Student Space Conference 2013, taking place at the University of Bristol on Saturday and Sunday [23 and 24 February].

Bridget is due to play a pivotal part in an expedition to explore the red planet in 2018, but her next mission is to take part in the National Student Space Conference 2013, taking place at the University of Bristol on Saturday and Sunday [23 and 24 February].

Around 200 delegates are gathering at the sold-out event to hear about the latest thinking and technology in the field of space exploration.

Among the notable speakers is rocket engineer Alan Bond from Reaction Engines Ltd, who will give an update on the Skylon space plane which could potentially be the first plane to take-off from a normal runway and carry its passengers into orbit thanks to a ground-breaking engine which uses propulsion to reach the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere before switching to rocket power.

There will also be a wide range of speakers from the UK Space Agency, the Royal Astronomical Society, the International Space University and many other prominent space organisations.

The National Student Space Conference 2013 has been organised by UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) - the UK's national student space society - and will mark its 25th anniversary.

The Bristol branch of UKSEDS and Bristol CHAOS, the University of Bristol Physics Society, are hosting the event in the HH Wills Physics Laboratory.

Physics student Alex Dawn, 20 and President of Bristol CHAOS, said: “It’s going to be a busy and fascinating few days and we’re really excited to be hosting the conference here in Bristol. The real highlight of the conference is going to be the talk given by Alan Bond from Reactions Engines Ltd. Everyone’s keen to find out the latest advances with Skylon, especially with all the media excitement around the possibility of transporting passengers into space for the first time.

“Bridget will be very popular too. She’s going to be accompanied by a team of engineers who will give us an insight into how she’s been designed to be far more autonomous than previous Mars rovers.”

Bridget was constructed by Astrium Satellites Ltd to test systems such as autonomous navigation in preparation for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission, scheduled for 2018.

She is 1.65m long, made from extruded aluminium, has six metal wheels and is powered by four golf cart batteries.  Compared to previous Mars rovers, Bridget is able to move faster and select her own route to the next point of interest. Stereoscopic cameras at the top of a two-metre mast allow her to see in 3D and navigate her way around the uneven terrain.

Bridget recently featured on Stargazing Live during a discussion about the possibility of life on Mars.

For further information, please see the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference 2013 website.

Further information

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The hashtag for the conference is #UKSEDS25