When someone mentions a NASA rover, the first thing we think of is Mars or some other celestial body. Our perspective will need to change soon, however, with NASA planning to deploy a rover in the icy tundra of Greenland on May 3. The rover will be tasked with roaming Greenland’s ice sheets to provide scientists with information on the inhospitable land and the changes to its monumental plains of ice.
The rover is called GROVER, which stands for two things: Greenland ROVER, and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research. The rover is an autonomic machine equipped with a solar panel on both its sides to power its batteries. Under the hood, so to speak, there is ground-penetrating radar for analyzing the different layers of ice and how they formed over time.
This projects follows a recent rapid change in Greenland’s icy surface, which melted drastically last summer as temperatures reached higher-than-normal temperatures. The result was a 97-percent melting of Greeland’s surface ice, with the current ice sheet being the subject of GROVER’s mission. A prototype of the rover has already been tested at an Idaho ski resort, which you can see in the image above.
While all of that is interesting, the perhaps most fascinating part of the story is that GROVER was made by students in what NASA calls summer engineering boot camps at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The development process lasted through summers 2010 and 2011, and is a by-product of the students’ desire to create a rover for studying snow accumulation on the ice sheets, a task most commonly carried out by airplanes and snowmobiles. Says NASA, the project costs less than space-bound rovers.