Carolyn Parcheta, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and JPL robotics researcher Aaron Parness are developing robots that can explore volcanic fissures.

VolcanoBot 1, shown here in a lava tube -- a structure formed by lava -- explored the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii in May 2014. The robot is enabling researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to put together a 3-D map of the fissure.
Credits: NASA/JPL-CalTech

"We don't know exactly how volcanoes erupt. We have models but they are all very, very simplified. This project aims to help make those models more realistic," Parcheta said.

Parcheta, Parness, and JPL co-advisor Karl Mitchell first explored this idea last year using a two-wheeled robot they call VolcanoBot 1, with a length of 12 inches (30 centimeters) and 6.7-inch (17-centimeter) wheels.

VolcanoBot 2, smaller and lighter than its predecessor, will explore Hawaii's Kilauea volcano in March 2015.

Parcheta's research endeavors were recently honored in National Geographic’s Expedition Granted campaign.


Also: Learn about Autonomous Response for Targeting and Monitoring of Volcanic Activity.