Named Grover, the space vehicle weighs some 800 pounds and stands six foot tall, making it considerably more robust than its predecessors. Although it won’t be much faster than previous models, travelling at only 1.2mph, it is powered entirely by solar panels.
Grover will gather data and test itself in harsh conditions during a journey to the highest part of the iced landmass of Greenland. Radar waves will be sent deep into the ice to look for buried objects. In doing so, it will provide scientists with crucial new information of the melting ice-sheet.
Gabriel Trisca, a graduate student working on the project, said that Grover could be a useful platform for all kinds of science instruments, not just radar.
“It would be just a matter of getting one instrument and plugging it in, I hope there are other projects that can benefit from an autonomous vehicle like this, that can be controlled via satellite from anywhere in the world.”
Grover was designed by teams of students at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. It’s considered a far more practical and cost-effective means of exploration since humans need not accompany it, nor does it need to rest.