Westmont Illinois based Montgomery Design International (MDI) and Santa Barbara, California based Ergonomic Systems Design have announced they have jointly been awarded the Chicago Athenaeum's Good Design Award for 2009 as creators and designers of the Manned Mars Exploration Rover (MMER). Designed as an independent study for the 2037 Mars mission, the Rover was cited for its bold, futuristic design as well as providing transport and life support for Mars astronauts.
As an integral part of the planned Mars expedition, it will be necessary to design, transport, and assemble, two MMER vehicles. This was the basic design parameter for the project charged to Dr. Steve Casey of Ergonomic Systems Design and the industrial design team at Montgomery Design International.
Mars Astronauts will live, eat, sleep, work, maintain personal hygiene, even exercise within the confines of the MMER vehicle while on extended exploratory missions. Space will be tight, but a typical crew will have about the same amount of room as in a small motor home. Each rover will be manned by two to four astronauts, but must be capable of sustaining as many as six in an emergency.
The MMER is operated from either of the two redundant control stations mounted in the forward cabin. There is also a communication and navigation station within the main cabin. An air lock, also in the main cabin, will serve as the portal for extravehicular activities, and will act as buffer from the pervasive Martian dust. Behind the main cabin is space for two large removable modules, which can be a crew living module, a research lab module, or a crane / drilling module. All modules are interchangeable. Atop the crew module is a 360° degree viewing portal to augment the 360° camera system. External power outlets are located on all sides of the vehicle.
Despite drawbacks, the demand for reliable, electric power will dictate a nuclear power plant on the Rovers, as well as on the base station. The design contains a modular Dynamic Isotope Power System located between the rear frame rails of the Rover chassis. Both Rover power plants are removable and will serve as backups for the base station.
Overall, construction materials are exceptionally varied. Strength, lightness, and reliability in the harsh Martian environment are of paramount importance, but repairability is also key. The vehicle cabins are made of ceramic-matrix composites; a material that can be easily repaired much like fiberglass, and provides significant temperature advantages over metal.
Each of the six wheels of our Rover is electrically powered for redundancy and is independently suspended. Both front and rear wheels are steerable for enhanced maneuverability. The sectioned tread bands of the "tires" are a nano-carbon composite material with a Solimide foam core - - light weight but exceptionally strong. The 5 degree wheel and tire camber is set to improve handling and tracking in soft soil and on side slopes.
At the lower front nose of the MMER Rover is a conventional electric winch, and multifunction manipulator arms that are operated from the cabin. With these, samples can be dug, drilled, or picked up and placed into the slide-out sample collection drawer beneath the control center.