Many of you will remember "Spiderlegs" from the
"NASA's goals with this project were to test and demonstrate robot exploration, communications and computer technologies which may be needed for future space exploration missions. Carnegie Mellon's interests include extending the results of this demonstration to other more practical Earth-based applications, including additional volcanic exploration, mining and mine safety operations, large-scale agricultural deployment and hazardous environment operations for industrial and municipal organizations. The Alaskan Volcano Observatory's goal is to obtain information on the chemical and temperature properties of the crater floor, and a higher resolution video survey map of the crater interior."
A "tilt-leg" spider on the north face of the Mount St. Helens lava dome in January 2005. (CVO Photo Archives)
The early spiders only consisted of one or two instruments apiece, but new models have multiple sensors (and have spiffy software that can sort out what's important enough to send on to scientists). According to NASA's website,
A team of engineers, students, volcanologists and geologists put the system together. The team includes the U.S. Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory staff, who designed and built the "spider" hardware; Washington State University in Vancouver, where the sensor network software was written; and NASA, which developed software to make the spiders able to detect events to trigger space observations by the EO-1 satellite.All in all, exciting new stuff - and a big improvement from the poor ungainly contraption that Pierce Brosnan was trying to coax down a bouldery slope on an imaginary volcano.