Sep 8, 2008

WALL-E - The Future of European Space Exploration?

Continuing our theme about rover comparisons from our recent post, today we take a look at that cute animated robot called WALL-E who recently hit the cinemas around the world. WALL-E, created by Pixar Animation Studios, is a fictional robotic character designed to clean up Earth after it becomes polluted by future humanity. In addition to being the character's name, WALL-E is also an acronym for "Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class".

For the sake of comparison, we show below the fictional WALL-E with the "real" ExoMars rover currently being developed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The ExoMars mission is still under development by ESA. Previously we were given a very exotic and aerodynamic "Artists Impression" of ExoMars (left image). More recently, after more engineers got their hands on the design, ESA released its Phase B1 design (center image) which has replaced all the nice curves with hard 90 degree angles. Interestingly, the ExoMars design is starting to look at lot like the fictional WALL-E design (right image)!

And that's not the only linkage between WALL-E and ExoMars. In collaboration with Disney/Pixar, ESA has developed a special WALL-E website to introduce young people to the wonders of space exploration.

What is going on here?

Is ESA using WALL-E to convince European taxpayers that block-shaped industrial-looking rovers can also be cool? Is ESA now outsourcing its public outreach to Hollywood? Is ESA trying to cash in on environmental issues to sell its space missions?

Well, we don't know the answers to these questions but we thought it would be interesting to get your opinion on the relative merits of the designs with the following poll.

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