In this artist's impression of the breadcrumb scenario, autonomous rovers can be seen exploring a lava tube after being deployed by a mother rover that remains at the entrance to maintain contact with an orbiter or a blimp. (Image: John Fowler/Wikimedia Commons, Mark Tarbell, and Wolfgang Fink/University of Arizona)

University of Arizona engineers have developed a new system that allows autonomous vehicles to scout out underground habitats for astronauts. On this episode of Here's an Idea™, Wolfgang Fink, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer engineering at UArizona, discusses how the approach could help address one of NASA's Space Technology Grand Challenges by helping overcome the limited ability of current technology to safely traverse environments on comets, asteroids, moons, and planetary bodies such as Mars.

Professor Fink is lead author of a new paper in Advances in Space Research that details a communication network  that would link rovers, lake landers, and even submersible vehicles through a so-called mesh topology network, allowing the machines to work together as a team, independently from human input.

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