At the double: Engineers test Rosalind Franklin rover duplicate ahead of Mars mission

Preparations for the ExoMars mission have taken a step forward with the testing of a duplicate of a space rover built in Stevenage.

The replica of the Rosalind Franklin rover - which was made by Airbus Space and Defence - has carried out its first test run around a special simulation of the red planet.

The Ground Test Model (GTM) will be an important part of the mission to Mars, which is scheduled to launch next year.

It will be used by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rover Operations Control Centre in Turin, Italy.

ESA chiefs say the GTM will used to prepare rover operators for Rosalind Franklin’s arrival on Mars in June 2023.

The GTM is supported by a device to recreate the martian gravity level - about one-third of Earth’s Credit: ESA

Last month NASA carried out tests on the parachute system for the rover.

The tests conducted were described as simple driving activities. In the coming months, the team will carry out tougher examinations of the rovers functionality, including whether it can course correct, autonomous driving capabilities and some drilling activities,

The ExoMars rover will be first to drill 2 m below the martian surface to retrieve samples for analysis in an onboard laboratory. It's hoped that it will help ascertain whether there was life on Mars.