NASA recently concluded a successful six-week test of a prototype polar rover near the highest point in Greenland, where the robotic vehicle traversed icy terrain in temperatures of minus 30 Celsius to help scientists learn more about how ice sheets are faring in the changing climate — without having to break for hot cocoa.
Greenland’s ice sheets are an important area of research because if they melt, the Earth will reflect less of the sun’s energy and warm more quickly.
The rover — dubbed GROVER, for Goddard Remote Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research or simply Greenland Rover — was first developed by engineering students who participated in Goddard Flight Center’s boot camp in 2010 and 2011. NASA has subsequently funded fine-tuning of the vehicle at Boise State University under the guidance of geoscientist Hans-Peter Marshall.
The students approached Goddard glaciologist Lora Koenig about building a robot that would assist her in her research on Greenland’s ice sheets.