STATES CHRONICLE – So far, scientists have designed dozens of vehicle prototypes to explore other planets, including rovers and robots which can roam the slopes on the surface of the moon or of Mars. Now, right before launching a new lunar exploration mission, scientists from the German Aerospace Center tested their future robot explorer on the steep surface of Mount Etna in Sicily.
Preparing for a lunar exploration on Mount Etna
Mount Etna is the most active volcano found in Europe. Also, its rocky slopes closely imitate the surface of the moon, and are perfect to ‘train’ future explorers and get them ready for the lunar landscape. Therefore, scientists wanted to see how their robot can cope with an exploration mission.
They used Mount Etna to test the four-wheeled, three-foot high robot. Also, apart from testing their current technology, they wanted to see how they can improve their technique and make it more suitable for future space exploration.
The rover will also collect data on the seismic activity of the volcano
For this program, the German Aerospace Center collaborated with researchers involved in the project ROBEX (Robotic Exploration of Extreme Environments). Boris Behncke, one of the researchers involved and volcanologist at National Volcanology Institute in Catania, described their study.
“This is aimed at simulating a future, hypothetical landing mission on the moon or Mars and they use a lot of robots which are there to transport and install different instruments.”
Previously, scientists performed other tests around an area near the volcano brushed by strong winds, called Piano del Lago. However, this rover they’re testing is not only meant for lunar exploration. It will enter the depths of Mount Etna and gather important data regarding the seismic movements which take place inside the volcano.
The same studies will be useful for a future Mars exploration, while all the data regarding seismic activity will turn out valuable in all kinds of space missions.
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