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The Tumbleweed rover, currently under development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is a large, windblown, inflated ball, which carries an instrument payload in its interior. Such rovers offer an effective and simple means of gathering data over large spatial extents of Earth, Mars, and other solar system bodies. Tumbleweeds could prove to be a safe and economical way of deploying instruments such as a ground penetrating radar or a magnetometer in numerous hostile environments. The latest version of the rover was recently deployed in Greenland, where it completed a more than 130km autonomous traverse across an ice sheet. Communicating via the Iridium satellite network, the rover in question successfully and reliably relayed live GPS, temperature, and pressure data to a ground station at JPL for nearly ten days. The follow-on rover is currently being readied for a traverse from the South Pole to the coast of Antarctica some 2000km away. The Antarctic test is set to take place in February of 2004 and will serve to verify Tumbleweed as an effective means of harvesting data in extreme and remote settings.
Aerospace Conference, 2004. Proceedings. 2004 IEEE (Volume:1 )
Date of Conference: 6-13 March 2004