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Robotic rover explores desert environment

robotic rover
January 30, 2012

Internationally-recognized artist Miguel Palma, from Lisbon, Portugal, has been commissioned by the ASU Art Museum’s Desert Initiative to develop a mobile project that explores our connection to the desert environment.

In collaboration with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and other community partners, Palma will convert a former military vehicle for use to photograph and film natural desert environments. The vehicle will return to urban settings at night to project the recorded imagery on building facades and other sites.

To launch the collaborative project, Palma and SESE will host an exhibition as part of the Arizona SciTech Festival First Friday Art + Science event on Feb. 3, which takes place in conjunction with the First Friday artwalk in downtown Phoenix (details about the Feb. 3 event are here: The public will have an opportunity to interact with a full-scale autonomous rover (RAVEN) designed and built by SESE students.

RAVEN (Robotic Assist Vehicle for Extraterrestrial Navigation) is a three-wheel, 330-pound (150-kg) rover that can traverse 20 degree slopes and is able to travel at speeds up to three feet/second (1m/s). It has Visible and Near-Infrared cameras that are functionally similar to the cameras on the Mars rovers. These are able to photograph the environment and build maps. Combined with its ability to carry experiments, samples and tools, RAVEN makes an ideal robotic field assistant for astronaut-scientists for exploring Moon, Mars and other planetary bodies.

A model of Palma’s project will be on display along with information from SESE at the Regular Gallery, 918 N. Sixth St., in Phoenix, from Feb. 3 through Feb. 24.

The ASU Art Museum, part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, serves a diverse community of artists and audiences through innovative programming that is interdisciplinary, educational and relevant to life today. The ASU Art Museum’s Desert Initiative connects desert communities nationally and globally and fosters innovative approaches to sustainability through arts-based research and projects.

The ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE), established in 2006, is a ground-breaking educational initiative to combine science and engineering research to achieve a better understanding of the universe and, especially, our home world. SESE was designed to be on the cutting-edge of an intellectual trend toward combining modes of analysis from science and engineering to craft a more holistic understanding of the process interactions that have shaped – and will continue to shape – the Universe. SESE possesses an extensive research portfolio with field work on every continent on Earth; probes sent to the Moon, Mars, Venus, and Mercury; and ground-based and orbiting telescopes interrogating deep space.