Volcanologist Carolyn Parcheta builds and tests Volcano bots, sturdy and compact robots that can explore inside volcanoes. Her team is developing these two-wheeled explorers to learn more about how magma moves and how volcanoes erupt, not only on Earth but perhaps on other planets and moons, too. From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab:

For their experiments in May 2014, they had VolcanoBot 1 roll down a fissure – a crack that erupts magma – that is now inactive on the active Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

Finding preserved and accessible fissures is rare. VolcanoBot 1 was tasked with mapping the pathways of magma from May 5 to 9, 2014. It was able to descend to depths of 82 feet (25 meters) in two locations on the fissure, although it could have gone deeper with a longer tether, as the bottom was not reached on either descent.

“In order to eventually understand how to predict eruptions and conduct hazard assessments, we need to understand how the magma is coming out of the ground. This is the first time we have been able to measure it directly, from the inside, to centimeter-scale accuracy,” Parcheta said.

volcanobots1and2

Above, via NASA, VolcanoBot 2 and the slightly larger VolcanoBot 1.

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