Meet NASA’s newest addition, the Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, or GROVER for short.
This 800-pound bot is made for polar exploration in extreme cold and just wrapped up a test expedition at the highest point in Greenland, where it faces wind gusts at 30 miles per hour and temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.
On its five-week test mission, the rover roamed over 18 miles of frozen wasteland, sending back diagnostic information in real time and charging its solar-powered battery every 12 hours. The uneven terrain and extreme temperatures presented plenty of challenges to all those systems — mobility, power, and internal electronic instruments.
Here’s the lil’ guy at work:
GROVER’s job will be to use radar to gather information about our own planet buried beneath layers of ice and snow, all while being remotely controlled from thousands of miles away.
“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 researcher Gabriel Trisca in a NASA blog post today.
“GROVER has grown to be a fully autonomous, GPS-guided, and satellite-linked platform for scientific research.”
Next up, GROVER will be connected to a geo-stationary satellite to send researchers even more data (and different kinds of data) remotely and in real time.
Researcher Hans-Peter Marshall is also hoping to merge the GROVER project with other polar robot projects, such as a smaller, faster bot from the engineers and scientists at Dartmouth.
“One thing I can imagine is having a big robot like GROVER with several smaller ones that can move radially outwards to increase the swath GROVER would cover,” he said. ““An army of polar robots — that would be neat.”