I am very excited to announce that The Planetary Society has a futuristic new project: the Planetary Deep Drill with Honeybee Robotics to develop a prototype of a drill that could allow drilling hundreds of meters to even kilometers through planetary ices. The current drilling depth limit that has been achieved robotically on other worlds is only a few centimeters, so the robotic ability to drill even meters, much less hundreds of meters or kilometers, into planetary ices would be a revolutionary step in planetary exploration. We could look back in time by drilling the layers of the Martian polar caps, or learn more about the possible subsurface oceans on Europa and Enceladus.
Bruce Betts / The Planetary Society
Kris Zacny and Planetary Deep Drill
Kris Zacny, the vice president and director of exploration technology for Honeybee Robotics, holds part of the instrument package for Planetary Deep Drill, which contains a microscope capable of resolving 0.5-micron particles
The Planetary Society is supporting field tests of the wire-line style drill at a gypsum mine near the Salton Sea in Southern California. Gypsum has similar strength properties to extremely cold water ice like that found on other planetary bodies, so is a good first step test for the prototype. The tests will likely occur in February or March 2015.