Lunar robot ready to roam Hawaii’s Mauna Kea

Scarab 1

The otherworldly slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island will soon test a new lunar robot.

Scarab, a four-wheeled robot designed to extract compounds from the lunar soil that could be helpful to future explorers, will be tested on Hawaii’s highest mountain from Nov. 1 to 13.

The lava rock- and cinder cone-strewn surface of the mountain’s upper elevations are much like the surface of the moon, and make an ideal testing ground for the unmanned mining robot. Mauna Kea was also where the astronauts of the Apollo moon-landing program tested their lunar buggies before blasting off for the real deal.

Scarab was designed and built by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. It will likely be tasked to explore craters at the moon’s southern pole—a spot locked in permanent darkness, with minus 385 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. Scarab is able to drill a one-meter core sample at each site, extract it and then chemically analyze it using an on-board lab. (Click here for video of Scarab in action.)

Plus, have you noticed the sweet lines on this remote-controlled baby yet? Whoa.

Want to read more about Mauna Kea? Check out the feature story “Star Light, Star Bright” in the November/December 2008 issue of HAWAII Magazine. It’s a travelogue of a recent evening trip I took to the summit to experience the sunset and stargazing from 13,796 feet above sea level. We’ll also have video footage I shot of my Mauna Kea summit visit, here on the Web site next week.

Categories: Hawai‘i Island