For New Rover, NASA is Swapping Buggy Shape for a Giant Snake in Hopes it Can Explore Icy Moon of Saturn
NASA is testing an all-terrain slithering robot to explore tunnels, glaciers, and snowdrifts on Saturn’s icy moon of Enceladus.
The 13-foot-long (4 meter) machine is called EELS, or the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor, owing to theories that the icy-covered world of Enceladus may have a subsurface ocean of liquid water—one of the solar system’s best places to look for signs of extraterrestrial life.
For nearly 30 years, robotic rovers have retained the same buggy-shape and design, from the original Pathfinder Rover in 1996 to Perseverence in 2021.
But these have been designed to travese deserts like the Moon and Mars—covered in a loose mixture of sand and crushed rock known as regolith. Enceladus presents an entirely different set of challenges.
“It has the capability to go to locations where other robots can’t go. Though some robots are better at one particular type of terrain or other, the idea for EELS is the ability to do it all,” Matthew Robinson, EELS project manager, says in the statement.
“When you’re going places where you don’t know what you’ll find, you want to send a versatile, risk-aware robot that’s prepared for uncertainty—and can make decisions on its own.”
The autonomous robot is being tested in undulating sand and ice, along steep cliffs, gaping craters, underground lava tubes, and even narrow spaces within glaciers.
The robot weighs about 220 pounds (100 kilograms), and is made up of 10 segments with exterior panels shaped like an uneven screw that will allow it to slither along. Stiffer tread in between the joints will help it move on slippery ice.
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It’s designs will include technology to allow it to make its own decisions about how best to move over any given terrain, since telecommunications with the Earth would take multiple days.
“There are dozens of textbooks about how to design a four-wheel vehicle, but there is no textbook about how to design an autonomous snake robot to boldly go where no robot has gone before. We have to write our own,” stated Hiro Ono, EELS principal investigator.
However there’s no time to lose, since it will take 12 years for a lander to deliver EElS onto the surface of the moon.
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Enceladus has become one of the most interesting bodies in the solar system. The Cassini deep-space probe revealed a variety of extremely interesting features, including an active molten core that powers icy geysers which eject plumes of methane gas, dust, and ice.
The core’s heat is believed to have created a salt water ocean lying under the frozen surface where over billions of years, the conditions for life to evolve on its own would be protected from the hostile world above and space beyond.
Even if it were never to see action in space, the robot is already being tested here among the glaciers of Earth, and could be valuable for getting to know our own world.
WATCH it move through various terrain in testing…
SHARE This Totally Sci-Fi Attempt At Robotic Exploration With Your Friends…
Marsâ moons mission adds 10 NASA-picked scientists
If they’ve survived, the 50 spacecraft that’ve gone to Mars have focused mostly on Mars itself. But that’ll soon change, with a mission from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), due to launch in 2024. It’ll focus on the two small moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. On April 18, 2023, NASA announced 10 U.S.-based scientists who will be joining the science working team for the Japanese mission. The mission is called Martian Moons eXploration, aka MMX.
JAXA tweeted its congratulations:
Congratulations to the ten US-based researchers who have been selected by NASA to join the science working team for MMX! The wide range of expertise is incredible and we cannot wait to see what we will discover with you when we reach Phobos and Deimos!https://t.co/Q2rp9KCyGR
— Martian Moons @JAXA (@mmx_jaxa_en) April 20, 2023
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1st group: flight instrument research
The 10 scientists are divided into two groups, one with seven people and the other with three. The first group will conduct research using MMX’s flight instruments. That group includes:
– Olivier Barnouin, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland. Barnouin will create high-resolution digital terrain models of the Martian moons, measuring the properties of surface features and studying the properties of the Phobos regolith through its interaction with the rover.
– Matteo Crismani, California State University, San Bernardino, California. Crismani will study the particles of interplanetary dust that strike Mars and their role in the formation of high-altitude ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere.
– R. Terik Daly, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland. Daly will search for surface changes on Phobos and Deimos by comparing MMX image data with past missions’ imagery of the two moons.
– Christopher Edwards, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona. Edwards will apply a thermophysical model to MMX infrared spectra in order to map the variations in spectral properties and surface roughness across Phobos and Deimos.
– Abigail Fraeman, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California. Fraeman will combine data from different MMX instruments to learn more about the moons’ compositions and to test hypotheses about the sources of enigmatic spectral absorptions observed on Phobos.
– Sander Goossens, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. Goossens will use data from the MMX instruments and navigation data from the spacecraft to constrain the moons’ gravity fields, shapes, rotational states and internal mass distributions.
– Christine Hartzell, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. Hartzell will explore the physical properties of Phobos’ surface regolith by using rover data to identify regolith clumps and constrain the forces needed to hold them together.
2nd group: Sample return to Earth
Later, the second group will focus on samples that the mission will bring back to Earth from Phobos. They are:
– Nicolas Dauphas, University of Chicago, Illinois. Dauphas will utilize mass spectrometer techniques to determine elemental and isotopic abundances of iron, potassium and other elements, and to measure ages using rubidium-strontium dating.
– Jemma Davidson, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Davidson will use microscopy and mass spectrometry methods to analyze opaque minerals in the Phobos samples to elucidate the origin of Phobos and its later alteration history.
– Daniel Glavin, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. Glavin will study amino acids, cyanides, amines, aldehydes, ketones and hydroxy and monocarboxylic acids using gas and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry.
Additional NASA support for Mars’ moons mission
In addition, NASA is also supplying the mission with the Pneumatic Sampler (P-Sampler) technology demonstration and the Mars-moon Exploration with GAmma rays and NEutrons (MEGANE) spectrograph instrument.
Likewise, Honeybee Robotics, sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, designed and built the P-Sampler. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built MEGANE, which was developed under NASA’s Discovery Program.
Exploring Phobos and Deimos
JAXA is planning to launch MMX in 2024. The spacecraft will arrive about a year later. Then, after entering orbit around Mars, it will enter a Quasi-Satellite Orbit (QSO) around Phobos. A quasi-satellite is an object in a co-orbital configuration (1:1 orbital resonance) where the object stays close to the planet over many orbital periods.
MMX will explore both Phobos and Deimos, but will, in particular, have a special focus on Phobos. In fact, it will collect samples from Phobos with the goal of returning them to Earth in 2029. Indeed, MMX will be the first mission to ever attempt this.
Overall, the primary science objectives are to better understand the origin of both moons. Even now, there is still much debate among scientists as to how they originated. Did they form along with Mars or are they captured asteroids?
Also, the mission will help improve technology for future exploration of Mars.
The UAE’s Hope Mars mission also just released new images of Deimos, which you can read more about here.
Main objectives of Mars’ moons mission
According to JAXA, the main objects of the mission are:
– To investigate whether the Martian moons are captured asteroids or fragments that coalesced after a giant impact with Mars, and to acquire new knowledge on the formation process of Mars and the terrestrial planets.
– To clarify the mechanisms controlling the surface evolution of the Martian moons and Mars, and to gain new insights into the history of the Mars sphere, including that of the Martian moons.
– To understand the origin and evolution of the planets that leads to the start of life.
Mars’ moons have long fascinated both scientists and the public alike. American astronomer Asaph Hall first discovered them in August 1877. Now, within the next couple of years, we will get our closest look at them yet, and even bring a little bit of them home.
Read more about the Martian Moons eXploration mission
Bottom line: NASA announced last week that it has chosen 10 scientists from across the U.S. to help with Mars’ moons mission called Martian Moons eXploration (MMX).
We Must “Act Now” on Global Warming Says IPCC – Advanced Energy Storage Among Top Technologies Fighting Climate Change in 2023 – Yahoo Finance
With the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urging nations to act now to avoid tipping points and climate change, several technologies will come to the forefront of fighting climate change this year. Below are four areas that…
Worldâs 1st 3D-printed rocket to launch from Cape Canaveral
Relativity Space will launch the world’s first 3D-printed rocket on March 8, 2023, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida.
The post Worldâs 1st 3D-printed rocket to launch from Cape Canaveral first appeared on EarthSky.
Mars Rover Team Excited After Finding… âRock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. METEORITE!â
Always keen to anthropomorphize their robots, NASA put out a social media post of one of their Mars rovers coming upon an exciting discovery. Putting words into the Curiosity rover’s mouth as it lazily dug around in the dirt, the rover said, âRock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. METEORITE!â “This one’s about a foot wide […]
The post Mars Rover Team Excited After Finding… âRock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. METEORITE!â appeared first on Good News Network.
Dinner on Mars will transform food on Earth
The technologies needed to plan for dinner on Mars will also help us transform how things are done here on Earth, where 1/3 of all food is thrown away.
The post Dinner on Mars will transform food on Earth first appeared on EarthSky.
Watch China’s Spacecraft Land on the Moon in This Trippy Video
In 2020, China was preparing for its second landing on the moon as part of a sample-return mission of lunar regolith. Dramatic belly-cam footage was captured of the lander’s descent and touchdown. It shows the craft approaching the Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms) region of the moon at high speed and at an angle. What […]
The post Watch China’s Spacecraft Land on the Moon in This Trippy Video appeared first on Good News Network.
To Boost Produce Pollination, Tiny âFAIRY Robotsâ Can be Propelled by the Wind Like Seeds
In the future, millions of artificial dandelion seeds carrying pollen could be dispersed freely by natural winds and then steered by light toward specific areas with trees or flowers awaiting pollination. The genesis for such wild imagination is the recent invention of a polymer-assembly robot that flies by wind, is controlled by light, and inspired […]
The post To Boost Produce Pollination, Tiny âFAIRY Robotsâ Can be Propelled by the Wind Like Seeds appeared first on Good News Network.
‘Wearable Muscles’ Restore Mobility in Those Who Have Trouble Moving Their Arms
A pioneering set of “wearable muscles” with a profile similar to a shoulder sling could increase mobility and strength in the arms of people who have lost it. As algorithmic intelligence advances, more and more engineers are attempting to design different prosthetics to replace lost mobility, but many are large, bulky, complicated, or extremely expensive. […]
The post ‘Wearable Muscles’ Restore Mobility in Those Who Have Trouble Moving Their Arms appeared first on Good News Network.
These Flabby Gel Robots Could Deliver Life-Saving Drugs by Inching Along Using Changes in Temperature
A “soft robot” can move its way through the human body solely by the changing of temperatures, and could be an excellent way to deliver precision doses of key medications. These “gelbots” aren’t really robots at all, but little capsules filled with a water-based gel that through expansion and contraction, pushes the tiny robot along […]
The post These Flabby Gel Robots Could Deliver Life-Saving Drugs by Inching Along Using Changes in Temperature appeared first on Good News Network.