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NASA's Newest Rover Headed To Greenland [VIDEO]

May 02, 2013 11:04 AM EDT
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NASA’s newest rover isn’t headed for Mars; in fact, it’s not headed into Space at all. The robot known, as GROVER, is tasked with exploring the highest part of Greenland.

GROVER, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, is set for testing May 3 through June 8 and, should everything go according to plan, will roam the frigid landscape in order to collect measurements scientists hope will shed light on the changes in the massive ice sheet, according to a NASA press release.

“GROVER is just like a spacecraft but it has to operate on the ground,” explained Michael Comberiate, a retired NASA engineer and manager of Goddard’s Engineering Boot Camp. “It has to survive unattended for months in a hostile environment, with just a few commands to interrogate it and find out its status and give it some directions for how to accommodate situation it finds itself in.”

Developed in 2010 and 2011 by teams of students attending Comberiate's boot camps, the autonomous, solar-powered machine will carry a ground-penetrating radar to enable the study of how snow accumulates, adding layer upon layer to the ice sheet over time.

Standing six feet tall and weighing about 800 pounds, the tank-like robot moves on two repurposed snowmobile tracks. Because the sun never sets so far north during the summer, GROVER will be able to operate at all times in the pristine polar environments without adding to air pollution.

It will be joined in June by Cool Robot, a Dartmouth College invention funded by the National Science Foundation capable of towing a variety of instrument packages for glaciological and atmospheric sampling studies.

The country’s surface layer became a subject of constant media coverage starting in the summer of 2012 when higher-than-average temperatures resulted in the melting of nearly 97 percent of the ice sheet.

Previously, information is gathered by radars carried on snowmobiles and airplanes.

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