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CNET News Video: Roving robots explore moon, desert

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CNET News Video: Roving robots explore moon, desert

3:28 /

Whether it's exploring the moon's craters or the inhospitable Chilean desert, robots are aiding in the research work that humans wouldn't ordinarily be able to do. At a recent visit to Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh, CNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi gets up close and personal with the Scarab, Zoe, and an entry into the Lunar X Prize Challenge.

[ Background Music ] >> Hey there I'm Kara Tsuboi CNET News.com. I'm here at Carnegie Mellon University at the Robotics Institute in the Field Robotics Center and key word is field because all these robots are designed to get out in the field whether that's the deserts of Chile, Antarctica or even the moon. ^M00:00:18 [ Music ] ^M00:00:24 [ Background Music ] >> This vehicle is really a prospector of sorts. It's gonna travel round on the moon, drill these cores, pull up the sample, look at the abundance of different materials at different depths in the sample, process it and send back that information as it explores the core of the crater. >> The reason the Scarab wants to explore the crater is it is in search of possible hydrogen deposits to drill. >> If that hydrogen is in the form of water, it would be of course a huge resource for us to utilize, to produce oxygen to breathe, hydrogen for fuel and then of course water for astronauts to use on the moon. >> This is time consuming work with conditions not suitable for humans. >> So the temperature is about 80 degrees Kelvin, hundred of degrees below zero. >> And that's why this NASA sponsored project is perfectly suited for a robot and equally unhospitable place for a human led research is the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. >> It's the place on earth that has the lowest abundance of life. So if you take example of soil from the Atacama Desert and when you look at the number of organisms and the number of stores in there, it has the lowest concentration of life of any where that we found on earth. >> That's why NASA has sponsored Zoe, a robot named after the Greek word "for life." >> The project has been try to understand where do these organisms survive and what's the distribution in abundance of the organisms in different locales in the desert? > What its ragged tires and solar powered engine, Zoe has been several months traversing 250 kilometers of the desert taking samples the whole time. >> Right now we have a set of instruments that can look down on the soil as the robot traverses. We have this robot operating fully autonomously so our scientists are here in Pittsburgh. They upload commands to it and then it spends the day traversing, taking these measurements and navigating for itself. >> This robot is it an early prototype for Carnegie Mellon's entry into the Google Lunar X Prize Challenge. >> We're designing a solar powered rover. We're intending to go to an equatorial region. In fact we've now announced that our goal is to revisit the Apollo 11 landing site. We would land in proximity to Apollo 11 and then part of our 500 meters traverse would be to get back to the landing site where you know Neil Armstrong landed on the moon >> Tasked with landing on the moon, traveling 500 meters and sending back an SMS and voice message, it's a modern day space race. >> At one full step for men. >> The rover has to carry those cameras and all the communication equipments so it can broadcast live high definition video back from the moon. >> Teaming up with Raytheon Company and the University of Arizona, CMU has its eye on the prize, all 20 million dollars of it. >> One giant leap for mankind. >> I'm Kara Tsuboi CNET News.com ^M00:03:22 [ Music ]

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