This paper reports on the design and implementation of a real-time executive for a mobile rover that uses a model-based, declarative approach. The control system is based on the Intelligent Distributed Execution Architecture (IDEA), an approach to planning and execution that provides a unified representational and computational framework for an autonomous agent. The basic hypothesis of IDEA is that a large control system can be structured as a collection of interacting agents, each with the same fundamental structure. We show that planning and real-time response are compatible if the executive minimizes the size of the planning problem. We detail the implementation of this approach on an exploration rover (Gromit an RWI ATRV Junior at NASA Ames) presenting different IDEA controllers of the same domain and comparing them with more classical approaches. We demonstrate that the approach is scalable to complex coordination of functional modules needed for autonomous navigation and exploration.