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Next-gen rover to practice searching for life

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posted on Aug, 20 2004 @ 07:55 AM

By Alan Boyle
Science editor
Updated: 3:02 p.m. ET Aug. 18, 2004

Robotics experts are getting a next-generation rover ready to hunt for life in the driest place on Earth. The two-month-long dry run in Chile's Atacama Desert could help set the stage for a similar search someday on Mars.

The four-wheeled, solar-powered rover, named ZoŽ, was created at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It's designed to cover up to 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) a day, at speeds of up to 2.2 mph (1 meter per second). That's 20 times as fast as the top speed for the twin rovers currently working on Mars.

But raw speed isn't the point of this experiment. Rather, the researchers want to see whether highly mobile robots could do a better job of looking for life in alien environments.

"We're testing a hypothesis here, that the way to search for life is actually to look in a lot of places," said David Wettergreen, a Carnegie Mellon robotics professor who heads the NASA-funded research project, known as Life in the Atacama.

Sure seems like an awful lot of time and money just to gamble on the possibility that life MAY exist elsewhere. Could it be that NASA knows for sure that life is on Mars, but needs hard core data brought back from this Rover to prove it to the general public. The implications of finding life on Mars are HUGE! It would throw everything about conventional religion out the door, and open the flood gates to the possibility of intelligent beings outside of earth.

These are some pretty exciting times!

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