NASA's next mission to explore Earth's icy Greenland

UNDATED (CNN) -- Mars may have rover, but Earth has GROVER. And NASA has high hopes for the robot's powers of detection. This is a new way of tracking climate change and extreme weather.

It is the Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, or GROVER.

Powered by the sun, it will use radar to peer beneath Greenland's ice sheet, getting clues on how it formed. NASA Glaciologist Lora Koenig says, "Grover should be able to gather more data than a human could for a longer period of time, it will go slower but when it goes for 24 hours which a human can't it will actually gather more data for us."

The robot really can work around the clock, for the moment at least. It's the arctic summer right now, so the sun won't set below the horizon. Greenland is of major interest to climate change researchers.

In November, a team of 47 scientists, backed by European and U.S. space agencies said Greenland and Antarctica are now losing three times as much ice each year as they were in 1990.

Last summer, NASA said these satellite images showed melting areas on 97 percent of Greenland's surface ice. The re-freeze afterwards is one of the things GROVER will be looking at.

Calculating how much ice has been laid down should help work out how much Greenland's melt is contributing to rising sea levels. While satellites keep track on climate change from space, GROVER will never leave this planet, but just like its Martian rover cousins, GROVERhas NASA's fingerprints all over it. Michael Comberiate with NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre says, "It's a spacecraft that operates on the ground. It has to survive unattended for months at a time while we are communicating with it sporadically"

GROVER's mission will be a lonely one at first, though later in the year it will be joined by "Cool Robot" developed at Dartmouth College.

Over the icy terrain, the pair will conduct their scientific research, never tiring, and never complaining about the cold.


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