The seeds of robotic rover development for the exploration of Mars by the United States were planted decades before the first of those rovers actually rolled onto the Martian surface. The Martian rovers that made NASA so proud and rekindled in the general public a new wave of interest in the Red Planet can trace their roots to the Surveyor Lunar Roving Vehicle (SLRV). The SLRV was built under contract for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) by General Motors' Defense Research Laboratories (GMDRL) in Santa Barbara, California, under the direction of Dr. Mieczyslaw G. Bekker who was head of the Mobility Research Laboratory there. Bendix Corporation also participated in the program. The SLRV was, as the name indicated, a program to soft-land on the surface of the Moon and deploy a rover to survey possible landing sites for future manned Apollo missions. Demonstration tests of the prototype SLRVs were conducted by the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) for NASA, and at JPL's own test area near its facility known as the Arroyo Seco.
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