DEPTHX – Robot Map

Music
Ambi: underwater from DEPTHX1

We’re listening to the sounds of a robot that’s exploring the world’s deepest sinkhole, Zacatn, located in central Mexico. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at Ames Research Center, is part of the team that developed the DEPTHX robot. Researchers hope that a robot like DEPTHX will one day explore Europa, a moon of Jupiter, which may have liquid water beneath its icy crust.

“Zacatn is interesting in a connection to Europa, I think, in two ways. One is in a physical way. When we finally do get through the ice on Europa, we’re going to be going down a tunnel or cracks, navigating through the ice into the water below, so we need a robotic technology that allows that sort of navigation and autonomous decision making as it swims through the structures of the ice cover. If there’s life on Europa, that life is surviving without oxygen and without sunlight. So there’s a lot of interest in exploring ecosystems on Earth that may be biological models for how life survives in environments without oxygen and without sunlight. And Zacatn has the potential to be one such interesting ecosystem.”

Because it explores places which have never been seen before, the robot must do its own navigation, using maps that it creates as it goes. In order for scientists to get any data from DEPTHX, the robot must not only explore and map the new environment, but also be able to find its way back to the surface unaided.

“The robotics components of Depth-X are working pretty well. They’re able to autonomously map. They’re able to figure out where they are. They’re doing a lot of things that a vehicle on Europa’s going to have to do.”

We’ll hear more about the DEPTHX robot in future programs. Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA. I’m Jim Metzner.

DEPTHX - Robot Map

A self-navigating robot maps underwater areas too dangerous for human researchers.
Air Date:08/22/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

Music
Ambi: underwater from DEPTHX1

We’re listening to the sounds of a robot that’s exploring the world’s deepest sinkhole, Zacatn, located in central Mexico. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at Ames Research Center, is part of the team that developed the DEPTHX robot. Researchers hope that a robot like DEPTHX will one day explore Europa, a moon of Jupiter, which may have liquid water beneath its icy crust.

“Zacatn is interesting in a connection to Europa, I think, in two ways. One is in a physical way. When we finally do get through the ice on Europa, we’re going to be going down a tunnel or cracks, navigating through the ice into the water below, so we need a robotic technology that allows that sort of navigation and autonomous decision making as it swims through the structures of the ice cover. If there’s life on Europa, that life is surviving without oxygen and without sunlight. So there’s a lot of interest in exploring ecosystems on Earth that may be biological models for how life survives in environments without oxygen and without sunlight. And Zacatn has the potential to be one such interesting ecosystem.”

Because it explores places which have never been seen before, the robot must do its own navigation, using maps that it creates as it goes. In order for scientists to get any data from DEPTHX, the robot must not only explore and map the new environment, but also be able to find its way back to the surface unaided.

“The robotics components of Depth-X are working pretty well. They’re able to autonomously map. They’re able to figure out where they are. They’re doing a lot of things that a vehicle on Europa’s going to have to do.”

We’ll hear more about the DEPTHX robot in future programs. Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA. I’m Jim Metzner.