An engineer from the University of Western Australia (UWA) is part of a team of researchers testing a NASA-developed autonomous robot.
The team is trialling the technology in Antarctica’s extreme conditions in hope that it could one day be used to search for signs of life in interplanetary ocean worlds.
Dr Dan Arthur, from UWA’s School of Engineering, connected with scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to trial the robot named BRUIE — or Buoyant Rover for Under Ice Exploration — in the icy temperatures at Australia’s Casey research station in Antarctica.
“BRUIE, a buoyant rover with two independent wheels, is designed to drive along the underside of ice crust and uses onboard instruments to detect compounds that are of interest to space scientists,” Arthur said.
“This is the third iteration of the robotic technology, which was built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California.”
Previous trials of BRUIE have taken place in the Arctic and Alaska. A future version of the robot could be included on NASA missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa.