Recently in the Robotics/Rovers Category

The autonomous, solar-powered Zoe, which became the first robot to map microbial life during a 2005 field expedition in Chile's Atacama Desert, is heading back to the world's driest desert this month on a NASA astrobiology mission led by Carnegie Mellon University and the SETI Institute. This time, Zoe is equipped with a one-meter drill to search for subsurface life.

Scientists have brought the ENDURANCE underwater vehicle to Lake Bonney, a perpetually ice-covered salt lake located in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys.

ENDURANCE, an autonomous vehicle designed to swim untethered under ice, will spend a month creating three-dimensional maps of the underwater environment. It also will collect data on the environmental conditions and take samples of microbial life. If all goes well, in the future NASA could send a similar probe to explore the ocean on Jupiter's icy moon Europa.

Read the daily blog entries written by scientists in the field as they work in Earth's coldest environment, testing the limits of ENDURANCE.

Online Course in Robotics Offered

The Robotics Alliance Project website will host an online course for college students on Aug. 6. The course prepares students to design space communication in the inner solar system. Experts in academia and government will provide over a dozen lectures. The format includes live web broadcasts, chat windows for Q and A, collection of mathematical communication programs, archival of events, student bulletin boards, and online finals. The students ask questions in chat windows and a robotics expert answers these questions globally through the web stream.

Devon Island Drilling Update

Automated Drilling Field Demonstrations Exceed Goals, Go "Naked" in Haughton Crater 2006 DAME Tests

To look for ice or especially organics on Mars, we will need to drill below the oxidized and irradiated surface, probably at least 1-2m. Hardened subsurface ice layers aren't going to be addressed with lightweight scoops on manipulator arms, drills will be needed. But drilling is an art form on Earth, even "automated" offshore oil drilling platforms have control rooms full of people watching and adjusting the drilling.