A robot created by Carnegie Mellon University will travel to Hawaii and traverse across the Mauna Kea volcano. The goal: prepare the rover for a lunar mission, where it will have to withstand -385F temperatures for extended periods and drill meter-deep holes to collect scientific evidence.
The test, which will take place in mid-November, will place the robot in harm’s way, to find out if it can collect data from multiple drillings under extreme conditions. The drill is located in the center of the robot to increase stability, and its chassis can raise and lower to control weight distribution.
On Mauna Kea, the Scarab will travel over many kilometers across rough terrain and craters on the now-dormant volcano. Tests will be conducted at night using laser scanners to monitor terrain. After each drilling, the Scarab will transport materials to a rock crusher and 900°C heating chamber.
“Gases released as the soil is heated are trapped in absorption beds and passed through a gas chromatograph,” says David Wettergreen, a CMU research scientist in charge of the project. “Thus it will demonstrate the complete lunar prospecting cycle. Similar instruments on the moon would measure the abundance of water and the amount of hydrogen and oxygen released from lunar regolith.”
Wettergreen says the Scarab is unique in that it has low-level motion control that keeps the robot moving even on elevated terrain and sloping craters. Algorithms programmed into the robot help it find paths through the terrain and locate the least treacherous route.