William Whittaker’s cave-crawling robot could one day explore lunar caverns.
W. WHITTAKER

NATURE | NEWS

Roaming robot may explore mysterious Moon caverns

Spelunking rover could scout sites for lunar bases.

Devin Powell
16 November 2012

William ‘Red’ Whittaker often spends his Sundays lowering a robot into a recently blown up coal mine pit near his cattle ranch in Pennsylvania (see video). By 2015, he hopes that his robot, or something like it, will be rappelling down a much deeper hole, on the Moon.

The hole was discovered three years ago when Japanese researchers published images from the satellite SELENE1, but spacecraft orbiting the Moon have been unable to see into its shadowy recesses. A robot might be able to “go where the Sun doesn’t shine”, and send back the first-ever look beneath the Moon’s skin, Whittaker told attendees at a meeting of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) programme in Hampton, Virginia, this week.

“This is authentic exploration, this is the real deal,” says Whittaker, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, whose robots have descended into an Alaskan volcano and helped to clean up the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. “This is really going where none have gone before.”

Read more: Roaming robot may explore mysterious Moon caverns : Nature News & Comment.

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