It’s not something you’re likely to be thinking about as you wandered around the supermarket at the weekend picking up groceries. However, maybe just maybe you were potholing in a dark cave somewhere in the Pennines, just then you may have thought to yourself how agile you have to be, and how many different ways there are of getting from A to B, and how careful you have to be about getting stuck in a corner. By now you may be drawing parallels with IT and how that sounds amazing similar, be assured there are companies out there that can help you with that, but back on track to where this blog was going, which was to an off world object, be it moon, mars, asteroid.
You’ve probably seen the amazing Nasa mars lander photos of the surface, not to mention a few conspiracy theory add ons and alien sighting add ons, what lies below the surface is still something of a mystery. What is known is that there are caverns, and possibly lava tubes, now place yourself into theory mode, and consider how you would explore those tubes remotely.
Seeing the picture of the rover from Nasa doesn’t do justice to its size, and simply driving into a tunnel won’t help as there’s no light for recharging, no knowing how deep you might need to drop down, and once in unlikely to be able to transmit a signal back to earth.
Well the people, Himangshu Kalita, Steven Morad, Aaditya Ravindran, and Jekan Thangavelautham from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University have released their paper ( Path Planning and Navigation Inside Off-World Lava Tubes and Caves, 2018) on just those considerations.
The team produced a theoretical paper with some amazing ideas on how to overcome these issues and explore the caverns. Their SphereX bouncing robots will communicate back to a base station, carrying mirror tiles, which will be laid down to bounce a laser light from the rover outside for light, communications and power, they demonstrate how serious things can really look fun, and inspire the fact that space exploration once again is having a ball.
The algorithms and technology that they have for 3D mapping of tunnels with multi hopping robots, and their “TransFormer” strategy for recharging their robots deep inside a cave, can not be done justice in a short blog post.
Hop over and download their paper for yourself https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1803/1803.02818.pdf
Have an inspired week ahead, everything we do here today brings us closer to being there tomorrow