Sitting atop the Big Island of Hawaii is majestic Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s largest volcano and also the site of the latest test site for NASA’s new moon probe, Scarab. Its mission: lunar prospecting.
Although the inactive volcano may not seem to resemble the moon, Mauna Kea does provide a similar environment to field test the robot for a mission to the moon. Mauna Kea has rocky slopes and, due to its elevation, cold temperatures. Mauna Kea is a paradise to many a migrating astronomer and, with its 14,000-foot summit, is often covered in snow. NASA will field test Scarab at 9,000 feet, where it will encounter rain, fog and daily temperatures of 40 degrees.
The four-wheeled Scarab will travel to different sites and obtain geologic core samples by drilling; the samples will be tested by on-board instruments to determine a chemical analysis of the sample. This allows Scarab to evaluate the site for possible mining of materials.