Greenland: NASA’s new polar rover GROVER, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, recently demonstrated in Greenland that it could operate completely autonomously in one of Earth’s harshest environments. GROVER’s radar emits a signal that bounces off the different layers of the ice sheet, allowing scientists to study how snow and ice accumulates in Greenland.
GROVER was designed by teams of students attending engineering boot camps at Goddard in the summers of 2010 and 2011. Built to carry ground-penetrating radar to analyse layers of snow and ice, the rover was later transferred to Boise State University for fine-tuning with NASA funding. The team wanted to check whether the robot could see a layer in the ice sheet that formed after an extreme melt event in the summer of 2012. First analysis of GROVER’s radar data revealed it was sufficient to detect the melt layer and potentially estimate its thickness. Though currently the radar information is stored onboard and retrieved afterward, the GROVER team wants to switch to a geostationary satellite connection that will let the robot transmit large volumes of data in real time.