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Sunday, September 26, 2010


In 1994, a walking robot named Dante II explored the Alaskan volcano, Mt. Spurr, on its own for nearly a week. The principal objective of Dante II was to develop and demonstrate technologies which could lead to solutions for robotic exploration of rugged terrain on the Moon and planets. The secondary objective of Dante II was to obtain scientific data on Mt. Spurr, as it had never been explored before.

Dante II was not self deploying, which would be a hindrance in potentially dangerous situations and would make space missions impossible. Instead, Dante was tethered at a site on the edge of the volcano during its repelling decent. This tether created maneuvering problems because during operation there was a constant issue of tangling Dante up. In addition to this tether, there was a satellite band communications antenna at this site used to send video and data between the robot and remote base station.

The operators were located about 120 km from the volcano because of the volcano's instability, which allowed for slightly more realistic (i.e. limited) space communications situations. Transmission of large packets of information (teleoperation commands, for instance) caused delays of 30 seconds or more. This made autonimity extremely important for this mission. Mt. Spurr was an ideal location to test close to real life conditions on the moon and other planets as the terrain was very rugged and the communications bandwidth problems.


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