The Australian Antarctic Division recently hosted a team from NASA at its Casey research station in Antarctica to test a new robot designed to search for signs of alien life in the solar system.
The team spent three weeks at the station testing the robot against the underside of the sea-ice. The buoyant robot ‘floats’ against the underside of the sea-ice to move around on two wheels.
According to Dr Kevin Hand, a scientist from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the mission was a huge success: “We put the robot under the sea-ice on four occasions and were able to test its full mechanical capabilities. We even left it hanging out under the ice for a 48-hour sleep-over.”
“What we saw was just stunning, the sea-ice algae dangling down like little chandeliers, carpets of thick algae communities and gas bubbles under the ice,” Hand added.
During the mission the robot was able to collect a range of valuable data, including information on dissolved oxygen, conductivity, temperature and depth. The Antarctic road tests will now inform changes to the design of the robot.