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The computer model developed at NC State determines how tumbleweed rover designs will function, based on their various design characteristics. For example, the model can show how a rover's diameter, elasticity and overall mass will affect its ability to navigate the Martian surface successfully.
And the model doesn't just test different rover designs in a stable environment. The model is flexible enough to allow researchers to look at how various designs would perform under different wind conditions and in different terrains -- from Martian rock fields to craters and canyons. This is important, because the surface of Mars is marked by significant changes in landscape.