The ESA is building an autonomous robot to explore the moon’s caves (for possible habitation purposes)

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ESA lunar cave explorerWhen things are horrible on the ground, it’s unsurprising that people turn to the skies — things seem so much simpler up there. And, soon, there will be robots. Exploration robots, specifically. The European Space Agency (ESA) is working on a robot known as DAEDALUS, which is designed to explore caves on the lunar surface.

Why? Well, to see what’s inside them, for one. And to see whether we could live inside them, for er… two. The thing about moon bases they don’t tell you in Austin Powers movies is that they’re susceptible to being punctured by micro-asteroids, which is bad for your air supply. And it’s awfully hard to make air out of nothing at all…

ESA, ESA, ESA!

DAEDALUS, otherwise known as the Descent And Exploration in Deep Autonomy of Lunar Underground Structures, is the creation of a team led by Germany’s Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg. Dorit Borrmann of the DAEDALUS team explains: “The design is driven by the requirement to observe the surroundings in full 360 degrees and the necessity to protect the interior from the harsh lunar environment. With the cameras acting as a stereo vision system and the laser distance measurements, the sphere detects obstacles during descent and navigates autonomously upon reaching the pit floor.”

The 46-cm ‘bot is designed to be lowered into caves on the moon, where it will detach from its tether and roll through the cave system on its own, scoping the place out for frozen water deposits and possibly human habitation options. In practice, we’d like to think it’ll work a whole lot like a Sphero drone. It certainly looks the part.

The robot’s tether would act as a receiver, letting the little autonomous ‘droid sent a 360° video of the cave system back to the surface (and then on back to Earth). It’s one of several lunar spelunking options being considered by the European Space Agency at present, but it’s certainly one of the coolest. And if it winds up locating humanity a home inside some caves on the moon (and provided we don’t find any Nazis in there), that’ll be even cooler.

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