A Robot to Find Water and Oxygen on the Moon

A robot rover designed for prospecting within lunar craters has to operate in continual darkness at extremely cold temperatures with little power. The moon has one-sixth the gravity of Earth, so a lightweight rover will have a difficult job resisting drilling forces and remaining stable. Lunar soil, known as regolith, is abrasive and compact, so if a drill strikes ice, it likely will have the consistency of concrete. Meeting these challenges in one system requires ingenuity and teamwork.

Engineers used this lunar rover to demonstrate a drill capable of digging samples of regolith. The demonstration used a laser light camera to select a site for drilling then commanded the four-wheeled rover to lower the drill and collect three-foot samples of soil and rock.

Image at Top: This robot shares some features with the lunar truck, but is equipped with a drill designed to find water and oxygen-rich soil on the moon. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University.

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