NASA's Volcanobot May Be Able to Explore Volcanoes in Space
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a state-of-the-art robot in order to explore the most elusive, mysterious parts of our own planet- the inside of volcanoes- with the hopes of one day using the technology to explore volcanoes on other planets.
The robot, called Volcanobot1, has the capability to venture into the inside of an active volcano and send information back to the surface, which no other technology has been able to do before. It will also be able to compile 3-dimensional maps of volcanic fissures, such as those of active volcano Kilauea.
"We don't know exactly how volcanoes erupt. We have models but they are all very, very simplified. This project aims to help make those models more realistic," said JPL postdoctoral fellow Carolyn Parcheta.
The robot itself is tiny, only one foot long and a little over six inches tall. The adorable little robot traveled 82 feet below the surface on its first trip inside Kilauea, and may be able to determine how magma reaches the surface.
Parcheta's advisor, Aaron Parness, insists that this research is the next step towards studying extraterrestrial volcanoes: "In the last few years, NASA spacecraft have sent back incredible pictures of caves, fissures and what look like volcanic vents on Mars and the moon. We don't have the technology yet to explore them, but they are so tantalizing! Working with Carolyn [Parcheta], we're trying to bridge that gap using volcanoes here on Earth for practice. We're learning about how volcanoes erupt here on Earth, too, and that has a lot of benefits in its own right."
There's still a lot of work left to be done before Volcanobot is ready to go to space, but NASA researchers are already hard at work at Volcanobot 2.0. Scheduled to be unveiled in March, the new version will reportedly be smaller, more efficient, and capable of diving further below the surface.