Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Underwater robots map sea floor
Wired reports: [edited]
In March, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University tested DEPTHX, (DEep Phreatic THermal eXplorer) in a series of Mexican sinkholes [simultaneously plumbing the depths of the ocean, and the art of acronym creation, ed].
DEPTHX creates its own 3-D maps of previously unexplored spaces and takes biological and geological samples. With its complex sonar system and navigation software, the bot then finds its own way home. The vehicle measures 8 feet in diameter and weighs 2,860 pounds, and its squashed sphere shape eases its navigation.
In the next few years the team that built the robot wants to use it to explore beneath Antarctica's ice sheet. The long term goal of the NASA-funded project is to use DEPTHX technologies to map and search for life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s icy satellites.