Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Spinning spokes: Cornell scientists develop method for using rover wheels to study Martian soil by digging holes

22.12.2003


After the twin Mars Exploration Rovers bounce onto the red planet and begin touring the Martian terrain in January, onboard spectrometers and cameras will gather data and images - and the rovers’ wheels will dig holes.



Working together, a Cornell University planetary geologist and a civil engineer have found a way to use the wheels to study the Martian soil by digging the dirt with a spinning wheel. "It’s nice to roll over geology, but every once in a while you have to pull out a shovel, dig a hole and find out what is really underneath your feet," says Robert Sullivan, senior research associate in space sciences and a planetary geology member of the Mars mission’s science team. He devised the plan with Harry Stewart, Cornell associate professor of civil engineering, and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.

The researchers perfected a digging method to lock all but one of a rover’s wheels on the Martian surface. The remaining wheel will spin, digging the surface soil down about 5 inches, creating a crater-shaped hole that will enable the remote study of the soil’s stratigraphy and an analysis of whether water once existed. For controllers at JPL, the process will involve complicated maneuvers -- a "rover ballet," according to Sullivan -- before and after each hole is dug to coordinate and optimize science investigations of each hole and its tailings pile.


JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y., is managing the science suite of instruments carried by the two rovers.

Each rover has a set of six wheels carved from aluminum blocks, and inside each wheel hub is a motor. To spin a wheel independently, JPL operators will simply switch off the other five wheel motors. Sullivan, Stewart and Cornell undergraduates Lindsey Brock and Craig Weinstein used Cornell’s Takeo Mogami Geotechnical Laboratory to examine various soil strengths and characteristics. They also used Cornell’s George Winter Civil Infrastructure Laboratory to test the interaction of a rover wheel with the soil. Each rover wheel has spokes arranged in a spiral pattern, with strong foam rubber between the spokes; these features will help the rover wheels function as shock absorbers while rolling over rough terrain on Mars.

In November, Sullivan used JPL’s Martian terrain proving ground to collect data on how a rover wheel interacts with different soil types and loose sand. He used yellow, pink and green sand -- dyed with food coloring and baked by Brock. Sullivan used a stack of large picture frames to layer the different colored sands to observe how a wheel churned out sloping tailings piles and where the yellow, pink and green sand finally landed. "Locations where the deepest colors were concentrated on the surface suggest where analysis might be concentrated when the maneuver is repeated for real on Mars," he says.

Stewart notes similarities between these tests and those for the lunar-landing missions in the late-1960s, when engineers needed to know the physical characteristics of the moon’s surface. Back then, geologists relied on visual observations from scouting missions to determine if the lunar lander would sink or kick up dust, or whether the lunar surface was dense or powdery.

"Like the early lunar missions, we’ll be doing the same thing, only this time examining the characteristics of the Martian soil," Stewart says. "We’ll be exposing fresh material to learn the mineralogy and composition."

Blaine P. Friedlander Jr. | Cornell News
Further information:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Dec03/Mars.wheels.bpf.html

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht How do muscle and tendon connections last a lifetime? Study in the fruit fly Drosophila
04.04.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht The Internet of Things: TU Graz researchers increase the dependability of smart systems
18.02.2019 | Technische Universität Graz

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum gas turns supersolid

Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.

Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Marine Skin dives deeper for better monitoring

23.04.2019 | Information Technology

Geomagnetic jerks finally reproduced and explained

23.04.2019 | Earth Sciences

Overlooked molecular machine in cell nucleus may hold key to treating aggressive leukemia

23.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>