ESA’s robotic ‘hamster ball’ could explore lava tubes on the moon to find water and homes for settlers

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Robotic ‘hamster ball’ could explore lava tubes on the moon to find water and homes for the first settlers of Earth’s natural satellite

  • The European Space Agency analyzes a robotic ‘hamster ball’
  • Formally known as DAEDALUS, the robot is said to investigate lava tubes on the moon
  • It would be lowered into a cave and autonomously roll away for its mission
  • Scientists believe the robot would help locate water and homes for settlers
  • The robot is equipped with sensors, lasers and a robotic arm to aid the mission

A robotic ‘hamster ball’ could soon explore lava tubes on the moon in search of water and homes for the first settlers of Earth’s natural satellite.

Formally known as DAEDALUS, the spherical machine is tied to a long chain, allowing it to be lowered deep into the moon caves and then disconnected to roll away autonomously.

The robot, which is still in the prototype stage, would also carry an immersive stereoscopic camera, a ‘laser radar’ lidar system for 3D mapping of cave interiors, temperature sensors and a radiation dosimeter, as well as extendable arms to remove obstacles and test rock properties.

Scientists hope DAEDALUS will eventually explore mapped multiple deep wells on the lunar surface believed to be ‘skylights’ in lava caves that may contain water ice deposits.

A robotic 'hamster ball' could soon explore lava tubes on the moon in search of water and homes for the first settlers of Earth's natural satellite

A robotic ‘hamster ball’ could soon explore lava tubes on the moon in search of water and homes for the first settlers of Earth’s natural satellite

Designed by a team coordinated by Germany’s Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU), the Descent And Exploration in Deep Autonomy of Lunar Underground Structures, DAEDALUS, the robot is being evaluated by ESA’s Concurrent Design Facility, as part of a larger study of the moon. cave mission concepts.

It has been posed to explore lunar caves that scientists have mapped on the lunar surface that could provide astronauts with natural protection from radiation, micrometeorites and extreme surface temperatures.

The operation involved a massive faucet that would lower DAEDALUS into the mouth of a lava tube.

The crane would get its power from the sun and power the robot using a ‘charging head’ attached to the bottom.

The robot, which is still in the prototype phase, would also carry an immersive stereoscopic camera, a 'laser radar' lidar system for 3D mapping of cave interiors, temperature sensors and a radiation dosimeter, as well as extendable arms to remove obstacles and test rock properties.

The robot, which is still in the prototype phase, would also carry an immersive stereoscopic camera, a 'laser radar' lidar system for 3D mapping of cave interiors, temperature sensors and a radiation dosimeter, as well as extendable arms to remove obstacles and test rock properties.

The robot, which is still in the prototype phase, would also carry an immersive stereoscopic camera, a ‘laser radar’ lidar system for 3D mapping of cave interiors, temperature sensors and a radiation dosimeter, as well as extendable arms to remove obstacles and test rock properties.

It has been posed to explore lunar caves that scientists have mapped on the surface of the moon that can provide astronauts with natural protection from radiation, micrometeorites and extreme surface temperatures.

It has been posed to explore lunar caves that scientists have mapped on the surface of the moon that can provide astronauts with natural protection from radiation, micrometeorites and extreme surface temperatures.

It has been posed to explore lunar caves that scientists have mapped on the surface of the moon that can provide astronauts with natural protection from radiation, micrometeorites and extreme surface temperatures.

In view of the robots, the charging head would provide wireless energy as well as transmit and receive data.

Dorit Borrmann from the DAEDALUS team said: ‘The design is driven by the requirement to observe the environment in 360 degrees and the need to protect the interior from the harsh lunar environment.

‘With the cameras as a stereo vision system and the laser distance measurements, the sphere detects obstacles during the descent and navigates autonomously when it reaches the pit floor.’

Scientists have long believed that lava tubes on the Moon and Mars could be used as habitats for the first settlers.

Dr. Riccardo Pozzobon, from the University of Padua, said: “The comparison of terrestrial, lunar and Martian examples shows that, as you would expect, gravity has a major effect on the size of lava tubes.

‘On Earth they can be up to 30 meters wide.

In the lower gravity environment of Mars, we see evidence of lava tubes that are 248 meters wide.

On the moon, these tunnels can be about a mile wide and hundreds of miles long.

The operation involved a massive faucet that would lower DAEDALUS into the mouth of a lava tube.  The crane would get its power from the sun and power the robot using a 'charging head' attached to the bottom

The operation involved a massive faucet that would lower DAEDALUS into the mouth of a lava tube.  The crane would get its power from the sun and power the robot using a 'charging head' attached to the bottom

The operation involved a massive faucet that would lower DAEDALUS into the mouth of a lava tube. The crane would get its power from the sun and power the robot using a ‘charging head’ attached to the bottom

“They’re potentially big enough for some pretty important human settlements – you could fit most of Riga’s historic city center into a lunar lava tube.”

These results have important implications for the habitability and human exploration of the moon, as well as for the search for extraterrestrial life on Mars.

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