- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

STEVENAGE, England (AP) - It looks like a giant sandbox - except the sand has a reddish tint and the “toys” on display are very expensive prototypes designed to withstand the rigors of landing on Mars.

The European Mars rover unveiled Thursday at a testing ground in Britain is designed to drill beneath the surface of Mars searching for signs of life.

The plan is to develop an autonomous robotic vehicle that can be launched in 2018 as part of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars program.

Plans call for it to be in communication with controllers on Earth twice a day and to be able to use the transmitted information to navigate to new destinations on Mars.

But it won’t be fast - maximum range is about 70 meters (210 feet) per day.

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