A Polar Traverse Rover (PTR) is a device designed to determine the role of Antarctica in the global climate system by determining typical paths of continental air that passes the South Pole, and by obtaining insight into the relationship between events at the Antarctic and the meteorology of sub- polar altitudes. The PTR is a 2-m-diameter ball in which an Iridium modem, with an integrated global positioning system (GPS) receiver and a commercial lithium battery pack, is suspended. The modem is attached to an aluminum plate and is surrounded by shock-absorbing plastic for protection. This core is attached to the interior walls of the shell by strings on three axis points. The unit’s total weight is 10 kg, and it returns data regarding location, altitude, ground velocity, and vertical velocity.

The PTR traverses the terrain solely through being blown around by the wind. The unit is much lighter than its predecessor, the Tumbleweed, and requires less wind to put it in motion and to sustain motion. The system is autonomous, requiring minimal monitoring, and enables long-range, unmanned scientific surface surveys in harsh environments.

This work was done by Alberto Behar of Caltech; Henrik Karlsson and Andreea Radulescu of International Space University; Jonas Jonsson of Uppsala University; and Mika Pegors, Spacegrant Student for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-45463

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.