Nasa has successfully completed technology development tests on two prototype lunar rovers by putting them through field situations similar to those experienced on the surface of the moon.

The desert research and technology studies (Desert RATS) held in the Arizona desert at Black Point Lava Flow will allow Nasa to analyse and streamline technologies and procedures in extreme environments on Earth.

Nasa’s Johnson Space Center human robotic systems project lead Rob Ambrose said that these tests provide crucial information about how the cutting-edge vehicles perform in field situations approximating those on the moon.

The studies simulated an intensive 14-day mission at the Arizona site during which an astronaut and a geologist lived inside Nasa’s prototype Lunar Electric Rover.

The mission included scouting the area for features of geological interest, simulated moonwalks to collect samples and a rescue mission.

The crew also docked to a simulated habitat, drove the rover across difficult terrain and made a four-day traverse across the lava.

Before the tests, Nasa’s K10 scout robot identified areas of interest for the crew to explore, while the heavy-lift rover — all-terrain hex-legged extra-terrestrial explorer — carried a habitat mock-up to which the rover docked.

The desert RATS are annual sessions that have been held for over a decade to identify the requirements for manned lunar explorations and to other destinations in the solar system.