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TO THE MOON

Scientists want to use this robot to measure quakes on the moon, but first they’re taking it to a volcano

This article is more than 2 years old.

When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins departed the Moon on Apollo 11 they left behind an America flag, medals honoring two Soviet cosmonauts, and a seismometer. The seismometer sent data back for three weeks. Apollos 12, 14, 15, and 16 also left behind seismometers. The last data we have from them was broadcast back to Earth in 1977, just five years after the last Apollo mission. But until 2011, there wasn’t a computer powerful enough to parse the data to figure out what the moon was like on the inside.

Even with those analyses in hand, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the moon. For example, we know that the moon has a core, but we’re not sure exactly what it’s made of.

A team made up of academics, industry experts and the government-supported German Aerospace Center, have a plan to fix that.  The ROBEX (Robotic Exploration of Extreme Environments) Alliance, wants to send a robot to the moon that would be able to manipulate and monitor moonquakes. The resulting data should provide scientists with a lot more information.

“We are testing the installation of an active seismic network on the lunar surface,” said Armin Wedler, deputy spokesperson for the ROBEX Alliance. “This would make it possible to, for the first time, determine the internal structure of the Moon and the composition of its upper layers.”

The testing location? Europe’s largest active volcano: Mount Etna, in Italy.

Watch the video above to see the robot at work, and what Etna and the Moon have in common.

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