An 800-pound, solar-powered rover designed by students at a Goddard engineering boot camp will be rolling across Greenland, collecting data on its depleting surface ice.
NASA has deployed the robot (the Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, or GROVER) to learn more about the causes and conditions of Greenland’s ice melt. The 6-ft.-tall rover carries ground-penetrating radar that can monitor snow accumulation in a more cost-effective way than satellite or plane-borne systems. It began a test run earlier this month.
The engineering students initially approached glaciologist Lora Koenig about the potential use of a robot on the ice sheets. Several teams of students worked on the design over three years.
The large solar panels on the rover allow it to move at 1.2 miles per hour, 24 hours per day (thanks to the perpetual Arctic summer sun) on snowmobile tracks. It is hoped that GROVER will detect the layer of the ice sheet that formed in the aftermath of the large melt event that occurred in 2012, when 97% of the ice sheet experienced surface melting.
The rover will be operated from the National Science Foundation’s Summit Camp using Wi-Fi to communicate over a 3-mile radius. Eventually, GROVER will be allowed to venture further away and transmit data in real time via satellite.
Another robot developed at Dartmouth College will join GROVER next month.