Autonomous Drilling Rover
A robotics team led by NASA's Glenn Research Center and Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute demonstrated a prototype lunar rover on sweeping dunes near Moses Lake, Wash., last month. The robot braved sand storms and unprecedented temperature swings to help NASA prepare for future lunar missions. The Autonomous Drilling Rover uses a laser light camera to select a site for drilling and collects three-foot samples of soil and rock. A rover designed to prospect for ice in lunar craters has to operate in continual darkness at extremely cold temperatures with little power. The moon has one-sixth the gravity of Earth, so a lightweight rover will have a difficult job resisting drilling forces and remaining stable. If a drill strikes ice, it likely will have the consistency of concrete. Meeting these challenges in one system requires ingenuity and teamwork.
Photographer: Sean Thomas Smith (Tessada & Associates), NASA's Langley Research Center