IFOS will work with Stanford University’s Center for Design Research to develop a drilling tool with fiber optic based spectroscopic and haptic (multipoint dynamic strain, texture, temperature) sensing capabilities. The former will be based on a hollow fiber bundle(s) up to 1-2 meters in length capable of transmitting wavelengths out to the 15-20 micron range so as to enable detection of a large range of organic fingerprints. The robotic drill system will be designed for probing and in situ analysis of comet ice below the outer subsurface going beyond the limits of surface reflectance spectrometry. In Phase 1, a feasibility prototype with the capability to operate on laboratory ice will be demonstrated.
This project will provide NASA with a tool with organic molecule detection capability that allows in situ analysis of comet ice. The system could be adapted to sampling ice on moons such as Europa, which is subject to particularly high radiation, Enceladus, and polar slopes on Mars. The benefit of in situ analysis cf. sample return is that a larger area can be searched with sample return delayed until interesting results are found.
This project will benefit commercial application of space mining, construction, search and rescue, manufacturing, medicine and, with reduced cost, a large consumer market, haptic capability in robots that perform dexterous tasks in environments dangerous or inaccessible to humans (e.g., handling hazardous materials) and human operator enhancement capabilities (e.g., tele-surgery).