NASA’s New Polar Rover Passes Greenland Test; Can Operate in Layers of Snow and Ice
By Julie S | Jul 08, 2013 10:38 PM EDT
Gusts and freezing temperatures are conditions that the NASA’s new polar rover can repel as proven by a test conducted in Greenland.
The GROVER-- Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research—is a robot designed by students during an engineering training in 2010 and 2011. Its purpose was to analyze layers of snow and ice.
The researchers brought the GROVER at the highest spot of Greenland between May 6 and June 8 to test if it can withstand the harshest weather condition. This test is the robot’s first polar experience in which it was able to perform commands sent over an Iridium satellite connection despite its far distance.
"When we saw it moving and travelling to the locations our professor had keyed in from Boise, we knew all of our hard work had paid off," said Gabriel Trisca, a graduate student from Boise State University who has been involved in the GROVER project from its start. "GROVER has grown to be a fully-autonomous, GPS-guided and satellite-linked platform for scientific research." Trisca accompanied the robot to Greenland.
The GROVER stayed in Greenland for five weeks gathering and storing radar data found in ice. It had travelled a total of 18 miles and was able to send the data real-time. Its battery life lasted for 12 hours before the researchers recharge it.
This is considered a breakthrough for science explorations in extremely cold places such as the Greenland which has temperatures going as low as 22 Fahrenheit and has gusts with speed that can reach 30 mph. Humans couldn’t stand these weather conditions so it would be a smart idea to deploy robots instead.
The researchers admitted that the GROVER is not yet a perfect research tool as it showed some problems during the tests such as the batteries draining faster than expected, rebooting issues, and being stuck in the snow. They are planning to change some of its components to address these issues before they run another test.
This was first reported in a press release in Science.