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Learning About PlanetVac at Honeybee Robotics

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With member and public support, the Planetary Society will work with Honeybee Robotics to test an elegantly simple yet amazingly effective technology called PlanetVac.  With no moving parts other than a gas valve, PlanetVac will be able to collect soil samples on Mars, the moon or an asteroid. Society Director of Projects Bruce Betts gets a tour of the Honeybee facility from Kris Zacny.


Dave: 11/05/2012 11:28 CST

Might PlanetVac produce a sampling error by more readily recovering smaller, less massive, particles?

amalgamatedsemiconductor: 11/09/2012 08:21 CST

Bruce, Bill, I urge you to proceed with caution in your partnership with HR. Their concept of PlanetVac is very clever, but I see serious safety culture issues in Zacny's open plan lab / office. There are no barriers between high vacuum,compressed gas, mechanical systems and the office workstations. No eye protection is used by employees or visitors and I'll bet there are no written safe operating procedures, safety showers or eye wash stations, no formal documented employee safety training, etc.... I'm saying this is a field day for an OSHA Field Agent in event of injury or fatality. My professional advice is to require an immediate, full-scale engagement with laboratory and industrial safety at Honeybee Robotics, else divorce TPS from HB immediately. Before accepting working partnerships TPS must inspect the operation and understand the committment to safe work practices; an accident at a collaborator's site can expose TPS to risk, will tie up your resources in legal actions, and will produce a failed project. Please call to discuss (410) 441 0205

Bruce Betts: 11/27/2012 02:07 CST

Regarding safety at Honeybee, I asked Kris Zacny from Honeybee Robotics to provide a reply, which he has done below: "Honeybee Robotics is fully committed to a safe workplace. We have a safety officer and the safety procedures are in place and followed through starting with the safety awareness meeting at 8:30am every day. The video was shot in our work area (not an office) and we asked people to stop working to reduce the background noise and eliminate the need for eye protection. The chamber tests continued since these were inside vacuum chamber and hence isolated from the laboratory area. The area looked busy because we have quite a few projects, just came back from the Arctic field deployment and were packing for the Antarctic field deployment. We have an eye wash area, but have never had to use it. "

Bruce Betts: 11/27/2012 06:52 CST

Regarding particle sizes recovered by PlanetVac, from Kris Zacny: "The pneumatic system can be used as a sorting tool if pressure and flow rates are reduced. Some instruments such as XRD in fact require particles that are smaller than 150 microns. For sample return missions one would want all particle sizes. Hence in this case the gas pressure can be dialed-in to capture even the largest particles. In our laboratory tests we moved particles as large as 1 mm, but that's not the limit for the pneumatic approach."

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