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Meet PitRanger: Tiny rover designed to probe the lunar underworld

5 Jan 2021, 11:45 UTC
Meet PitRanger: Tiny rover designed to probe the lunar underworld
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Artist’s concept of a PitRanger surveying a lunar pit. Image via William Whittaker/ USRA/ Carnegie Mellon University.
Curious about what kind of pristine and peculiar science environments lie below the surface of the moon? Meet PitRanger, a tiny rover currently being designed to explore deep pits below the moon’s surface.
PitRanger is currently on track to become the key instrument in a short-term moon mission aimed at capturing high-definition 3D images of moon pits, deep, steep-walled holes thought to have been shaped billions of years ago by a once geologically active moon. Funded by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC), the mini-robot will weigh 33 pounds (15 kg) and be solar-powered, a technological decision that poses many challenges alongside its advantages.
Although no launch dates have been proposed yet, the prototype, built by robotics research scientist William “Red” Whittaker and his team at Carnegie Mellon University, has already undergone and passed testing by performing at a sinkhole here on Earth, and is envisioned for launch in either 2021 or 2022.
Whittaker provided an update on his work during a virtual NIAC meeting held in September 2020, noting that significant progress has been made in the development of ...

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