"I do hope there's more of this because it's so costly to do science in these regions. Whatever you can do to reduce the cost enables you to do more science," Ray told OurAmazingPlanet.
Logistical costs - moving people - account for about 70 to 75 percent of most research budgets in Antarctica, Ray said. A National Science Foundation (NSF) report put the total cost of transportation and support even higher, at 90 percent of the polar science research budget. With the median NSF research grant at $125,000 in July 2012, any cost-savings in logistics frees up money for science. The Yeti-led supply convoys across the ice to McMurdo Station in Antarctica save $2 million annually over plane trips, the NSF estimates.
The Yeti robot, conceived and built by Dartmouth engineering students, cost about $25,000, Ray said. The Mars Curiosity Rover cost $2.5 billion to design, construct and land on another planet.
Constructed from off-the-shelf parts and batteries sturdy enough for very low temperatures, the rover has been a popular addition to the United States polar science program.