A safe TI-Rover touchdown on earth

Posted 05/04/2021 by Hans-Martin Hilbig, Ian Galloway

On February 18, 2021 billions of people from all over the world held their breath when NASA’s Perseverance Rover landed safely on Mars. This event inspired Hans-Martin Hilbig, a retired engineer and T³ instructor to stage a TI-Rover landing on Earth, using his DIY drone.

Hans-Martin Hilbig,
active contributor to T³ Germany and
T³ Europe


Four great leaders of space exploration
I was inspired to work on landing a TI-Innovator™ Rover following a web-conference with four great leaders of space exploration. Chief scientists from NASA, ESA the Russian and Chinese space programs talked about space travel and gave wonderful accounts of their own experiences. I was pretty impressed by the prestige of these four people as well as their stories. I was quite surprised about the critical line of questioning that followed. Two main topics were addressed:

      1International cooperation: space exploration led to peace and understanding between nations.
      2Sustainability: we live in a very fragile environment and cannot afford not to think about the next generations.

During the discussion, all speakers acknowledged that these were the most important issues facing us today, in ALL areas of human activity. Space exploration is no exception.

Why landing the Rover on Earth?

In landing the Rover on Earth, I wanted to accomplish several things. For one, modeling is a great way to transform complex processes into something simpler, something people can see, feel and understand. Also, I touch on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4 – Quality Education – which is the key foundation for transforming the world. I think we cannot mention this often enough.

Creating the TI Rover drone transportation video touches several key skills children should develop and train:

  • Develop a sense of (3-dimensional) space
  • Learning observation skills
  • Develop patience (believe me, there were a couple of experimental stages, including a crash, before my drone could carry the load of the TI-Rover)
  • Develop perseverance (execute the tasks necessary to achieve a goal)
  • Develop imaginary thinking (what are the risks to fail/crash the drone, what can be done to mitigate these risks?)
  • Develop logical thinking (cause and effect)
  • Develop creativity (What can be done to make the goal happen despite the MTOM (maximum take-off mass) of the drone? How should the video be composed to attract viewers? What is the right music for what is shown in the video?

Ian Galloway,
T³ Europe STEM leade


Space travel and sustainability

During the conference ‘Space Travel Across the Decades and Beyond’ we heard accounts of the landing of the Perseverance Rover and other wonderful achievements. Such as the Russian's landings on Venus, the Chinese Chang'e 5 lunar exploration and ESA's Rosetta mission. It was clear that all space experts felt very strongly about international collaboration and that it really was the only way to move forwards in all areas of space exploration. This international aspect should empower organizations to adopt the most sustainable approaches to their work possible. Clearly enormous amounts of fuel are used when lifting heavy loads into orbit and beyond. A blunt view would say this was unsustainable and that therefore only automated missions should be planned. But their arguments for a mixture of manned and robotic missions were very convincing. 

They highlighted the still inflexible nature of robotic craft and vehicles, despite their apparently autonomous behavior. All the participants talked about ethics and governance in manned space travel and linked this to mechanisms for promoting environmental awareness and preservation. In my own career I have been involved with projects to examine crops on the Earth's surface from orbit. And to contribute to weather forecasting from platforms such as LandSat and MeteoSat. Many of us take advantage of global positioning systems and global communications. It is imperative that we all consider the advantages and disadvantages of such technologies when thinking about sustainability.

STEM and sustainability in the classroom

Any efforts to stimulate young people to think about sustainability must motivate them to think about all the different aspects of technology. The activities developed by Hans-Martin and many others in the T³ community are essential in this endeavor. The international teachers’ community of T³ is actively identifying suitable classroom topics and lessons linked to the UN goals on sustainability. Very recently, several T3 Europe instructors have developed ready to use classroom activities and content focused on STEM and sustainability.

These were the panelists of the conference ‘Space Travel Across the Decades and Beyond’ (February 26)

  • Dr Jim Green, Chief Scientist NASA
  • Professor Gunther Hasinger, Director of Science, ESA
  • Professor Mikhail Marov, Director Planetary Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Professor Gu Yidon, Chief Scientist, Chinese Manned Space Program