Articles for "ROBEX"

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Space | 30. June 2017 | posted by Manuela Braun | 1 Comment

ROBEX Part 4: Ash, beetles and blustering winds

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Dust is inescapable after four weeks of field research on Mount Etna: a tenaciously fine layer covers everything: equipment, transport crates and notebook keypads. It penetrates the mission container and sticks to hands and legs lathered in sunscreen. Every step in the black lava soil kicks up clouds of dust. Even the white body of the LRU-2 Rover is coated in black deposits. A small mercy is that the last few days have seen significantly fewer flies and beetles buzzing around Mount Etna who, despite the gaunt landscape, insistently settle on the jackets and hats of the ROBEX team members.

After all, Mount Etna is not a conventional laboratory and remains unpredictable. Gusts of wind up to 100 kilometres an hour pummel the mountain on Thursday, carrying with it not only dust but heavy rocks, putting a stop to any work with the Rover – the force of the wind against the Rover's body and arm would simply be too great and could well have damaged it. The lander is also packed away safely, the flaps on its charging port not just folded down, but securely strapped in place. Finally, the engineers face the battering wind to remove the signs on the lander that the Rover uses as points of orientation during its approach. read more

Space | 28. June 2017 | posted by Manuela Braun

ROBEX Part 3: Hammering for science

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Mount Etna is very close to being a substitute Moon for the planetary researchers of the ROBEX project – it is here that they find volcanic basalt in quantities similar to those of the constituents of the lunar soil. In addition, the Sicilian volcano is the only place in Europe that experiences earthquakes at a depth of up to 600 kilometres. Mount Etna is like the Moon in this respect as well, as Earth's lunar companion experiences most earthquakes 700 to 1100 kilometres below the surface. "Etna is the only place in Europe where we can measure earthquakes at a similar depth," says planetary researcher Martin Knapmeyer.

Two experiments are to be conducted on the mountain; in the active measurements, the scientists use a hammer to strike the surface and seismometers to measure the transmission of the sound waves through the ground. The volcanic ash of 2001 rests on top of a more solid layer in Piano del Lago, so waves that take different routes through the surface material arrive at the seismometers at different times, providing information on the structures below the ground. The passive experiment uses four measurement stations to listen to the processes inside the volcano. read more

Space | 27. June 2017 | posted by Manuela Braun

ROBEX Part 2: Lander on a trolley

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

500. 350. 80. On Friday, these numbers set the rhythm. Weighing in at 500 kilograms, the RODIN lander will be taken 350 metres from its current location, 80 metres downhill. The lander was initially kept near base camp – the perfect location for carrying out repairs following its transit to Sicily and for the first tests and connection to the control room on Mount Etna. To conduct the actual 'Moon mission', the RODIN lander will be on the Piano del Lago.

The plain – located between Torre del Filosofo and La Montagnola crater – was once covered with meltwater. This changed when Mount Etna erupted in 2001; ash was spewn all over the plain and the Laghetto crater was formed. An ash blanket now covers a solidified layer of lava. It is its thickness that DLR planetary researchers want to measure. To do this, the heavy lander needs to be moved. Once lifted onto a trolley with rollers, the lander was able to start its descent down the slope. read more

Space | 23. June 2017 | posted by Manuela Braun

ROBEX Part 1: Mission in the lava landscape

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

A journey to the Moon is an arduous one, even if this 'Moon' is located here on Earth, 2600 metres above sea level, directly on Mount Etna.

A heavy transporter winds its way slowly and laboriously through the narrow, serpentine roads above Catania in Sicily to arrive at our lunar destination. The landscape becomes increasingly black as the team from the HGF Alliance ROBEX (Robotic Exploration under Extreme Conditions) approaches its temporary work location. Everyone clambers into all-terrain vehicles at Rifugio Sapienza to cover the last stretch to base camp, which is located right in the middle of a lava field. There, one lander, two rovers and several seismometers have been prepared for this one and a half week 'mission'. For the next four weeks, the on-site containers will be home to the almost 50 team members from DLR, AWI, the University of Würzburg and the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, where they will function as multipurpose laboratories, workshops and offices. read more