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DAEDALUS – Descent And Exploration in Deep Autonomy of Lava Underground Structures

Programme Reference
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DAEDALUS – Descent And Exploration in Deep Autonomy of Lava Underground Structures

The DAEDALUS mission concept aims to explore and characterise the entrance and initial part of lunar lava tubes within a compact, tightly integrated spherical robotic device, with a complementary payload set and autonomous capabilities. The mission concept specifically addresses the identification and characterisation of potential resources for future ESA exploration, the local environment of the Moon's subsurface and its geologic and compositional structure.

A sphere is ideally suited to protect sensors and scientific equipment in rough, uneven environments. It will house laser scanners, cameras and ancillary payloads. The sphere will be lowered into the skylight and will explore the entrance shaft, associated caverns and conduits.

Lidar (light detection and ranging) systems produce 3D models with high spatial accuracy independent of lighting conditions and visible features. Hence this will be the primary exploration toolset within the sphere. The additional payload that can be accommodated in the robotic sphere consists of camera systems with panoramic lenses and scanners such as multi-wavelength or single-photon scanners. A moving mass will trigger movements.

The tether for lowering the sphere will be used for data communication and powering the equipment during the descent phase. Furthermore, the connector tether-sphere will host a WIFI access point, so that data of the conduit can be transferred to the surface relay station. During the exploration phase, the robot will be disconnected from the cable, and will use wireless communication. Emergency autonomy software will ensure that in case of loss of communication, the robot will continue the nominal mission.