If people go stay on the moon for long periods of time, they’ll have to consider resources below the surface – and a rather unusual robot might just help. The European Space Agency is support work on DAEDALUS (Descent And Exploration in Deep Autonomy of Lunar Underground Structures), a “hamster ball“Julius-Maximilians University robot built to study moon caves.
The 18.1-inch ball is meant to be lowered from a tether and use a combination of stereoscopic cameras and LiDAR to map underground spaces as it rolls on its own. A radiation dosimeter and temperature sensors, meanwhile, measure how hostile these caves are to human life. The arm extension tests moon rocks and helps clear obstacles.
The tether would be useful as a WiFi receiver while the robot is operating on its own.
DAEDALUS is a cave exploration concept under study at ESA, and there is no guarantee that it will reach the lunar surface. However, it could be a vital tool if it becomes a reality. Researchers could find relatively intact material, including frozen water. Good caves might even be suitable for lunar colonies, as they could protect against micrometeorites, radiation, and extreme temperatures. Explorers may not need to build habitats as elaborate as necessary to live above the ground.