Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rare ’tumbleweed’ survives Antarctic conditions

04.03.2004


A balloon-shaped robot explorer that one day could search for water on other planets has survived some of the most trying conditions on planet Earth during a 70-kilometer (40-mile), wind-driven trek across Antarctica.



The Tumbleweed Rover, which is being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., left the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on Jan. 24, completing its roll across Antarctica’s polar plateau roughly eight days later.

Along the way, the beach-ball-shaped device, roughly two meters (six feet) in diameter, used the global Iridium satellite network to send information about its position, the surrounding air temperature, pressure, humidity and light intensity to a JPL ground station.


The test was designed to confirm the rover’s long-term durability in an extremely cold environment, with an eye toward eventually using the devices to explore the Martian polar caps and other planets in the solar system. It reinforces the findings of a test conducted previously on the Greenland ice cap, also carried out under the auspices of NSF’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP).

OPP manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, arranging logistical support and infrastructure for NSF-supported scientists as well as other government agencies, such as NASA, when they conduct science in Antarctica.

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions.

The final Tumbleweed Rover is envisioned as a lightweight, roughly 40-kilogram (88 pound) device that can serve multiple roles as an independent robotic explorer. The rover’s design allows it to act as a parachute while descending through an atmosphere, an air bag on landing, and, ultimately, as an unmanned vehicle equipped with an package of scientific instruments.

Tumbleweed is the brainchild of several JPL scientists, including Alberto Behar, a researcher with JPL’s robotic vehicles group.

During a three-day deployment at the South Pole, Behar unpacked, assembled, inflated, tested, and deployed the rover. He says that the efficiency of the deployment is testament to Tumbleweed’ s cost-effectiveness and ease of use.

Even though the average external temperature during the rover’s deployment approached minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), the rover kept its internal instrument payload at an average temperature of roughly 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) using excess heat from the instrument electronics circulated by an air pump.

The ultra-durable ball reached speeds of 30 kilometers per hour (10 miles per hour) over the Antarctic ice cap, and traveled at an average speed of about six kilometers per hour (3.7 mph). v The winds at the South Pole were unusually low during the test. As a result, the rover did not move at all for several periods during its deployment.

But, even taking those lulls into account, Tumbleweed managed an average speed of 1.3 kilometers per hour (0.8 mph) over the course of the deployment. Such speeds are unattainable in conventional, mechanical rovers--such as Spirit and Opportunity, currently operating on the surface of Mars--which average little more than 0.05 kilometers per hour (0.03 mph) on flat, dry ground.

Behar said the rover’s design is especially well suited for polar missions that use instrument packages to look for water beneath the surface of an ice sheet, a task that cannot be done accurately from orbit.

Plans to construct the next generation Tumbleweed rover are already underway at JPL.

Design refinements are likely to focus on reducing the rover’s weight and rolling resistance to lower the minimum winds needed to propel the rover and enable it to travel farther and adapting the payload to include a ground-penetrating radar or magnetometer to conduct ice surveys.

Behar said he hopes an updated version of Tumbleweed will be deployed again in late 2004 or early 2005, and that the Tumbleweed design may one day find itself rolling over the polar icecaps of Mars.

Peter West | NSF
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov/
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/technology/features/tumbleweed.html
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/media/01/fslogistics.htm

More articles from Process Engineering:

nachricht Laser Processes for Multi-Functional Composites
18.02.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

nachricht Efficient reactor dismantling by laser beam cutting?
05.02.2019 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: (Re)solving the jet/cocoon riddle of a gravitational wave event

An international research team including astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has combined radio telescopes from five continents to prove the existence of a narrow stream of material, a so-called jet, emerging from the only gravitational wave event involving two neutron stars observed so far. With its high sensitivity and excellent performance, the 100-m radio telescope in Effelsberg played an important role in the observations.

In August 2017, two neutron stars were observed colliding, producing gravitational waves that were detected by the American LIGO and European Virgo detectors....

Im Focus: Light from a roll – hybrid OLED creates innovative and functional luminous surfaces

Up to now, OLEDs have been used exclusively as a novel lighting technology for use in luminaires and lamps. However, flexible organic technology can offer much more: as an active lighting surface, it can be combined with a wide variety of materials, not just to modify but to revolutionize the functionality and design of countless existing products. To exemplify this, the Fraunhofer FEP together with the company EMDE development of light GmbH will be presenting hybrid flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs within the EU-funded project PI-SCALE for the first time at LOPEC (March 19-21, 2019 in Munich, Germany) as examples of some of the many possible applications.

The Fraunhofer FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, has long been involved in the development of...

Im Focus: Regensburg physicists watch electron transfer in a single molecule

For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.

The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...

Im Focus: University of Konstanz gains new insights into the recent development of the human immune system

Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens

Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...

Im Focus: Transformation through Light

Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light

When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Global Legal Hackathon at HAW Hamburg

11.02.2019 | Event News

The world of quantum chemistry meets in Heidelberg

30.01.2019 | Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

JILA researchers make coldest quantum gas of molecules

22.02.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Understanding high efficiency of deep ultraviolet LEDs

22.02.2019 | Materials Sciences

Russian scientists show changes in the erythrocyte nanostructure under stress

22.02.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>