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NASA's bioseeking robot to take a test drive

A mobile robot developed by Carnegie Mellon will set off on a trek across the Atacama Desert.

Zoe, a mobile robot developed by Carnegie Mellon University as part of NASA's astrobiology program, will take a public test drive on Aug. 12 in Pittsburgh. Designed to travel in harsh environments, Zoe will set off in 2005 on a two-month, 50-kilometer trek across Chile's Atacama Desert, where it will try to find and identify biological specimens. An imaging device beneath the rover will try to detect molecules indicative of life. It succeeds an earlier robot, called Hyperion, that toured the Atacama.

Ultimately, NASA and the university hope to use the robot to help develop a planetary rover that can possibly seek out signs of life.