NASA to Begin Testing "GROVER" Vehicle on Greenland's Ice Sheet
May 2, 2013 2:10 PM
It will collect radar data for the purpose of understanding changes in the ice
NASA will begin testing a new rover tomorrow, which is expected to measure changes in Greenland's ice sheet.
The rover is called GROVER, which is short for Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research. It's a 6-foot-tall, 800 pound, autonomous vehicle complete with solar panels and two repurposed snowmobile tracks.
The solar-powered GROVER will travel Greenland's surface layer
in order to help scientists understand changes in the ice sheet. A ground-penetrating radar -- which is powered by two rechargeable batteries -- is placed at the back of the rover. The radar sends radio wave pulses into the ice sheet, and the waves bounce off buried features. This information about the characteristics of snow and ice layers in this area is then collected.
Why Greenland? Because Greenland's surface layer made the news in summer 2012 when higher temperatures led to surface melting across about 97 percent of the ice sheet. GROVER will identify the layer of the ice sheet that formed after the great melt.
"Robots like GROVER will give us a new tool for glaciology studies," said Lora Koenig, a glaciologist at Goddard and science advisor on the project.
GROVER will have a partner come June named Cool Robot, which was developed at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., with funding from the National Science Foundation. Cool Robot will help conduct glaciological and atmospheric sampling studies.
From May 3 to June 8, GROVER will collect radar data in its testing phase in Greenland. It will travel at an average speed of 1.2 mph over a spot where the ice sheet is about 2 miles thick. While this seems like a snail's speed, GROVER can work at any time during the day because the sun never dips below the horizon during the Arctic summer (meaning GROVER can be continuously powered).
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