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2nd March 2016, 12:51pm
Top engineer to describe secrets of Europe’s mission to Mars
E Underwood / Airbus Defence and Space Ltd. The secrets behind the creation of a new spacecraft for Europe’s first Rover mission to Mars will be revealed in a talk by one of the top engineers involved in the project as part of the Great Minds guest lecture series at the University of Lincoln, UK.

Spacecraft structures engineer Abbie Hutty, who is responsible for ensuring that the ExoMars Rover will be capable of launch, landing and locomotion for the 2018 mission, will discuss the aims of the European Space Agency mission, the challenges it faces, and what it is like to work on such a major international project.

During her talk Abbie will explain how the team at Airbus Defence and Space developed a concept into a design which could be manufactured, while also fulfilling the requirements that the structure has to provide: strength, thermal insulation, electrical grounding, dust protection, and bio-containment. Her visit to the University of Lincoln coincides with British Science Week.

The talk, ExoMars - Europe's First Rover Mission to Mars, will take place on the University of Lincoln’s main Brayford Pool Campus on 16th March 2016 at 6pm, with registration from 5.30pm. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session with members of the audience. Admission is free but booking is essential. Priority will be given to groups from UK schools and colleges.

“The initial venture for the ExoMars project will involve a satellite going to the Red Planet to study trace gases, such as methane, in the atmosphere,” said Abbie, whose interest in engineering was inspired by the Beagle 2 and ExoMars Rover bid while she was at school.

“The orbiter will drop a probe on to the surface to test technologies needed to land the second mission – a rover – which should arrive in 2019. The Rover will travel across the surface of the Red Planet, carry out subsurface drilling, collecting samples which will be analysed in a laboratory in the heart of the vehicle, before data is sent back to Earth.

“We have had to think creatively about the design which includes solar panels to generate electrical power, an array of batteries and heater units designed to survive the cold Martian nights, as well as analytical instruments dedicated to exobiology and geochemistry research.

“The aim is for the Rover to travel 100 metres each sol – a Martian day – using maps it creates through its own internal navigation system and moving on six wheels which can be each be independently steered and pivoted for stability on uneven surfaces, so we had to create something which would allow that to happen.

“I am passionate about this project, and I want to spread that enthusiasm for engineering to the next generation of scientists.”

Along with specific project details, Abbie will talk more broadly about engineering, the UK space industry, and the significance of the ExoMars mission in the context of previous and upcoming international missions to Mars.

Abbie graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Surrey and went on to went to work for Astrium – now called Airbus Defence and Space – as part of their graduate programme.  

She joins the ranks of other notable names to have already spoken at this year’s Great Minds guest lecture series at the University of Lincoln, including naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, Speaker of the House, the Right Honourable John Bercow MP, and crime writer Ann Cleeves. The final Great Minds lecture of 2015/16 will take place on 18th April with TV presenter Dallas Campbell, known for the BBC One science series Bang Goes the Theory.  

To book a place at the Abbie Hutty Great Minds guest lecture, visit or email

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