A four-wheeled robot measuring 3 feet in height is currently being tested by the German Aerospace Center on Mount Etna, Italy’s most active volcano. The tests are being conducted in preparation for future missions to the Moon.
According to a Reuters report, the program is called Robotic Exploration of Extreme Environments (ROBEX). It is being carried out with the goal of improving robotic equipment for future use in space. ROBEX has enlisted an international team of experts from the U.S., Britain, Germany and Italy.
The Moon and Mount Etna have an extreme surface and extreme conditions in common. Therefore, testing on this ground meets the actual geological requirements of an actual lunar mission. The researchers feel that the critical components of a mission to the Moon will be tested and validated. The findings will help the research team to gain more insight into the existence and composition of the Moon’s central core.
The experts are also hoping to use the robots to investigate Mount Etna’s depths and gain useful technical information on the seismic movement. The techniques learned on the ongoing mission on Mount Etna will then be used in future missions to the Moon or in the exploration of Mars.
"This is aimed at simulating a future, hypothetical landing mission on the moon or Mars,” volcanologist Boris Behncke said, as Newsmax reported. “They use a lot of robots which are there to transport and install different instruments."
Incidentally, the first of the robotic testing phase is nearly done on the Piano del Lago area of the volcano. This is a desolate region that is struck by strong winds. The next phase will include a network of equipment such as drones and rover robots monitoring seismic activity. This equipment will mimic the ones that will finally be used on the lunar missions.