Volcanoes offer a number of roadblocks to exploration: Face-melting heat, daunting terrain and deep crevices. But scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab have designed two wall-climbing robots that can descend into fissures in volcanoes to better understand how they erupt.
Carolyn Parcheta, a NASA postdoctoral fellow, is working with JPL robotics researcher Aaron Parness to map a volcanic conduit system in Hawaii.
"We don't know exactly how volcanoes erupt," Parcheta said in a statement. "We have models but they are all very, very simplified. This project aims to help make those models more realistic."
Parcheta and her colleagues spun off what they call their VolcanoBots from an existing robot -- the Durable Reconnaissance and Observation Platform (DROP).
"We took that concept and redesigned it to work inside a volcano," Parcheta said.