Best Place to Test Drive a Space Rover - 2012
Arizona -- NASA's Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) and NASA's Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS) team
While Arizona's frequent haboobs, blazing summers, and year-round dryness can be a challenge for residents, it's also the perfect weather for testing equipment we one day hope to send into space. NASA's Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS) team descends on the Arizona desert every summer to put new space-exploration technology and principles through the torture of an Arizona summer. While they are in the desert, the D-RATS team perform a variety of simulated space missions.Some of the most recent experiments have been with the unambiguously named Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV). The SEV is like the wild space-going spawn of a pickup truck and a camper trailer, suitable for missions to Mars or to the surface of an asteroid. It's designed to be able to travel thousands of miles over rocky terrain with little or no maintenance. Astronauts can operate the vehicle in a "shirtsleeve" environment but quickly transfer into their spacesuits for a walk outside. While they are in the desert, the D-RATS team perform a variety of simulated space missions. Driving the SEV is unlike anything else out there because it has the ability to turn its multitude of wheels in virtually any direction and even use hydraulics to "crab walk" sideways across very difficult terrain. Granted, for as cool as it sounds, the SEV isn't for those with a need for speed. It clocks a top speed of only 10 kilometers per hour.