NASA’s newest robotic rover won’t be taking a long trip through space to explore a distant planet’s surface. Instead, the 800-lb. solar-powered instrument will be investigating a frontier much closer to home.
The Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, or Grover, will study how snow accumulates on the ice sheet covering most of the world’s largest island.
Using ground-penetrating radar, Grover will autonomously roam around the 2-3 km deep sheet that covers 85 percent of Greenland and collect data on changes in it. “Robots like Grover will give us a new tool for glaciology studies,” said Lora Koenig, a NASA glaciologist and project science advisor, in an agency announcement.
The important information the robot will collect is normally acquired more expensively on radars mounted to aircraft or snowmobiles driven over long days by freezing scientists.
Developed by teams of engineering students, the heavy robot
stands six feet tall with its solar panels. It runs entirely on sunlight. It is undergoing testing now in Greenland through June. Around then, another robot developed by Dartmouth College students will join Grover to extend the scientific mission.
Top Image: A prototype of Grover, minus its solar panels, was tested in January 2012 at a ski resort in Idaho. The laptop in the picture is for testing purposes only and is not mounted on the final prototype. Photo courtesy Gabriel Trisca/Boise State University.