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Published: 27 June 2017

Alumna to give fascinating insight into ExoMars Rover mission at TAROS

Abbie Hutty, now Platform Delivery Manager at Airbus, will give a free public lecture as part of TAROS 2017, revealing what goes into engineering for a mission to Mars.

Taking place at the University of Surrey from 19 to 21 July, TAROS (Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems) is the longest-running UK-hosted international conference on robotics and autonomous systems. The 18th TAROS will provide a platform for researchers, technology experts and businesses to present and discuss the latest developments in this exciting field.

“Our Rover could leave tracks in the sand where no human foot has ever trod, send back pictures of places no human eye has seen, and answer one of mankind’s oldest questions: ‘Are we alone in the Universe?’”

- Abbie Hutty

This year’s conference will include a free public lecture by Abbie Hutty, who graduated from Surrey’s MEng Mechanical Engineering degree in 2010 and has spent five years as the lead structures engineer for the ExoMars Rover. Due to be launched in 2020, the ExoMars Rover Mission is the first European mission of its kind and will search for evidence of life – past or present – on Mars.

In her talk ‘ExoMars Rover – Engineering for the Red Planet’, taking place on campus at 6.30pm on the evening of 19 July, Abbie will reveal some of the most challenging aspects involved in building the rover. These range from the specific problems presented by the Mars environment (such as extremes of temperature, radiation and dust) to the political and budgetary issues that come with an internationally collaborative, publicly funded mission.

Abbie says: “One of the most interesting, and strangest, challenges has been the need to protect Mars from contamination by Earth-life. This means that all our hardware has to be completely sterilised and we cannot use any materials that are organic in nature (like rubber or most oils and paints). This has actually been a bigger challenge than I think anyone really anticipated.”

With the first full build of the Rover structure now delivered, Abbie has recently taken on the new role of platform delivery manager, in which she is in charge of ensuring all elements of the Rover – including the structure, subsystems and equipment – come together.

She comments: “I love the exploration aspect of the ExoMars mission. I find that very inspiring. The fact that we really are going where no-one has gone before: our Rover could leave tracks in the sand where no human foot has ever trod, send back pictures of places no human eye has seen, and answer one of mankind’s oldest questions: ‘Are we alone in the Universe?’ That, for me, is breathtaking.”

People wishing to attend TAROS 2017 will need to register as a participant. They will then be given automatic admission to the public lecture by Abbie Hutty. People not attending TAROS 2017 can attend the public lecture free of charge, but need to register on the IET website.

Delegates at TAROS 2017 will get the opportunity to hear keynote speeches by Nicolas Heess of Google DeepMind, Professor Qingwen Wu of the Changchun Institute of Optics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Rob Buckingham of Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE), UK Atomic Energy Authority.

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