Rob Adlard

Designing for Mars: Help OU students build a working Mars rover prototype

Open University student Rob Adlard examining prototype Mars rover
Rob Adlard and team are building a prototype Mars rover

Five Open University (OU) engineering students are hoping to influence the next generation of space missions, by building a working Mars rover to compete against the leading universities in the world in The University Rover Challenge, the world's premier robotic competition for university students.


Rob Adlard and his team are combining their excitement about space exploration and their engineering education from The Open University to create a fully operational vehicle. The prototype rover will combine remote operation and semi-autonomy, with the capability to carry out scientific surveys of unknown terrains, vapourise and analyse rock, and communicate from 140 million miles away. The team hope their design will influence future space missions. 


Rob says, “Every major question about our planet, its future and its past can be answered by space exploration; where earth’s water came from, is there life on other planets? Only 50% of missions to Mars have ever made it successfully down onto the surface. Mars has only ever been explored by robots, so if human missions to the red planet become possible, it is only likely to increase the need for more sophisticated rovers.”


The OU team are inviting fellow alumni and supporters to help them turn their vision into reality. Rob says, “We need your help to do it. There’s a strict ten thousand pounds spending limit for each rover. Many of the big universities have that much to spend and more, but we’re hoping with your help to deliver our rover for a budget of around £3,000.”


Your support will help to pay for the parts the rover needs, from a £25 circuit board to a £2,000 robotic arm. Depending on your level of support, donors will receive a reward from the team; see for more details on the rewards.


To support the OU Mars rover team, visit between 19 April 2017 and 31 May 2017.