Lu­nar ro­bots put to the test on Si­cily’s Mount Etna

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

MOUNT ETNA, Italy: A ro­bot wheels across a rocky, windswept land­scape that looks like the sur­face of some dis­tant planet from a science fic­tion film. But it is not in outer space, it’s on the slopes of Europe’s most ac­tive vol­cano. Mount Etna, in Si­cily, is a test bed for the ap­prox­i­mately three-foot high, four-wheeled ma­chine ahead of a fu­ture mis­sion to the moon. It is be­ing con­ducted by the Ger­man Aero­space Cen­tre, the agency which runs Ger­many’s space pro­gram.

The pro­gram has en­listed ex­perts from Ger­many, Bri­tain, the United States and Italy to re­search ROBEX (Ro­botic Ex­plo­ration of Ex­treme En­vi­ron­ments) with the aim of im­prov­ing ro­botic equip­ment that will be used in space. “This is aimed at stim­u­lat­ing a fu­ture, hy­po­thet­i­cal land­ing mis­sion on the moon or Mars and they use a lot of ro­bots which are there to trans­port and in­stall dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments”, said Boris Behncke, a vol­ca­nol­o­gist from the Na­tional Vul­canol­ogy In­sti­tute in Cata­nia, near Mount Etna. Sci­en­tists also hope to use the ro­bots to ex­plore the depths of Mount Etna and re­lay back use­ful tech­ni­cal data on seis­mic move­ment. —Reuters

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