MINI MARS Rovers trundled round the Martian-like terrain in a test of their limits at an Oxfordshire space centre.

Some 60 undergraduate students from across the UK dedicated nine months to ploughing their skills into the creation of their very own Mars Rovers.

The machines were then put to the test in the Olympus Rover Competition by the professionals at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL Space) in Harwell, near Didcot.

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In a somewhat Robot Wars-style competition, students had to send in their machines to battle it out for top spot - albeit not by battling each other.

Instead the mini Mars Rovers were tested on their durability during 'take-off', whether it could withstand the vibrations', as well as how it factored when face to face with the Martian-like terrain of the Mars Yard.

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RAL Space director Chris Mutlow said: "Space is not for the faint hearted.

"Challenges occur at every stage of getting a mission off the ground and operating somewhere in the solar system.

"Learning how to deal with this, by coming up with inventive solutions, and having the tenacity to try again is an incredibly valuable experience and are something we look for when recruiting scientists and engineers.

"We’re delighted to be able to open our facilities up once more for students across the UK to get to grips with the rigours of testing for space and put into practice the skills we need in the space industry."

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The competition, organised by the national student space society UKSEDS, challenged six teams on the potential of a future robotic mission to collect samples of rock from the Martian surface.

The were tested on terrain similar to that on Mars in the government-funded research lab's trials area, plus tested on the RAL Space vibration table.

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Rovers lost wheels, others lots nuts and bolts, one even lost a robotic arm when put to the test.

The University of Bath team took home first place with their four-wheeled design, making use of a servo-operated robotic arm to collect sample cannisters.

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Varun Chhabra, from the winning team, said: “Participating in the competition has brought that interest to life and has given us all a valuable taste of real space missions. Taking part has been a fantastic opportunity to gain new skills, and develop our team working abilities, while also networking with fellow students and industry professionals."

UKSEDS chairman Sam Bond added: "The competition is structured to mirror the real development process of modern space missions, giving students a real taste of what working in the space industry is like. Plus, robots are cool."