NASA Drops Robot Into Active Volcano, Could Have Extraterrestrial Implications

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Carolyn Parcheta has been intrigued by volcanoes since sixth grade when she watched a scientist take a sample of lava on a science TV show. "I said to myself, I'm going to do that some day," Parcheta told NASA. Parcheta is now a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA. Volcano exploration can be tricky, so Parcheta and her co-advisor, a robotics researcher at JPL named Aaron Parness, are creating robots that can make the trip and gather the intel. "We don't know exactly how volcanoes erupt," Parcheta told NASA. "We have models but they are all very, very simplified. This project aims to help make those models more realistic." Parcheta was a finalist in National Geographic's Expedition Granted campaign and was awarded $50,000 as the next "great explorer," according to NASA. "Having Carolyn in the lab has been a great opportunity for our robotics team to collaborate with someone focused on the geology," Parness told NASA. "Scientists and engineers working together on such a small team is pretty rare, but has generated lots of great ideas because our perspectives on the problems are so different." NASA is also interested in what these robotic volcano conquistadors could mean for alien volcanoes. Earth and Mars both have fissures from which magma erupts. The same might be true for other extraterrestrial volcanoes like the ones on the moon, Mercury, Enceladus and Europa, according to NASA. More via Headlines & Global News.

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