‘Hamster ball’ robot could explore moon caves


If people are going to stay on the Moon for long periods, they will have to consider the resources below the surface, and a rather unusual robot could help. The European Space Agency is supporting work on DAEDALUS (Deep Autonomous Descent and Exploration of Lunar Subterranean Structures), a Julius-Maximilians University “hamster ball” robot built to study lunar caves.

The 18.1-inch ball is designed to be lowered from a leash and use a combination of stereoscopic cameras and LiDAR to map underground spaces while rolling on its own. Meanwhile, a radiation dosimeter and temperature sensors measure how hostile these caves are to human life. Outstretched arms test moon rocks and help clear obstacles.

The strap would be useful as a WiFi receiver while the robot works on its own.

DAEDALUS is a cave exploration concept that is being considered at ESA and there is no guarantee that it will reach the lunar surface. However, it could be a vital tool if it becomes a reality. The researchers were able to find relatively intact material, including possible water ice. Suitable caves might even be suitable for lunar settlements, as they could protect against micrometeorites, radiation, and extreme temperatures. Explorers may not need to build as elaborate habitats as would be necessary to live on the surface.

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