Many challenges of investigating Mars is the best way to get beneath the planet’s surface. Current projects like the Insight lander come equipped with a drill for putting probes into the Martian rock; however, earlier this year Insight’s drill became stuck in the soil and attempting to get the lander shifting is taking some serious consideration. Upcoming projects like the Mars 2020 lander might be armed with a rotating array of drill bits for munching via the Martian rock and extracting samples.
Now NASA is attempting a new method: An autonomous drill which may go several feet deep and which might adapt to different environments. The project, known as the Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies (ARADS) is being tested within the Atacama Desert in Chile, the atmosphere on Earth which is most similar to Mars.
The benefit of the ARADS system over current drills is that it will possibly operate without real-time human input, by logging information concerning the soil or rock it’s moving through and adjusting its course and drill power in response. This saves the scientists from worrying about getting the drill into position and allows concentrating on the data the drill is gathering. “What’s distinctive about this drill is that it might take you from dirt to data, all by itself,” Thomas Stucky, the pattern-dealing with software program lead for ARADS, explained in the identical statement. “All of the scientists need to do is level the rover to where it must dig, tell the drill how deep to go, and the drill will figure out the rest.”
Because the drill can go deeper than previous drills, it might be able to discover essential resources corresponding to subterranean water and even assist in the search for potential life on the planet. “If there’s any life on Mars’ subsurface, it’s possible within the form of microbes struggling to live off very trace quantities of water in soil or salt layers,” Arwen Davé, systems engineer for ARADS, stated in the statement. “Primarily based on what the drill can tell us about the soil, we can detect where these layers are, perhaps even leading us to where life is.”