The goals of this program are to develop robots for autonomous search of Antarctic meteorites and demonstrate robotic capability with planetary analogs of environment, control, navigation, communications, and scientific research.
Through tireless investigation in the harsh Antarctic environment and using computer sensing to search above and below the ice surface, meteorobots developed in this program will explore regions of Antarctica to find otherwise undetected meteorites. The use of robots will augment the human search for meteorites by working full-day cycles in the deep cold, and by detecting surface meteorites obscured to the human eye by blowing or drifting snow.
In FY99 this program will evaluate the performance of a autonomous mobile robot equipped with meteorite detection sensors at Patriot Hills, an Antarctic site suitable for the proposed deployment and operational challenges. The winterized Nomad will perform autonomous search and navigation excursions, all aiming at evaluating rover gross performance as well as individual subsystems. Moreover, we will field-validate a prototype architecture for detection and classification of native rocks and meteorites.