ESA’s drone-mapping astronaut has a Prometheus moment


Remember that scene from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012) where the crew used small, spherical drones to explore the subterranean network of tunnels on LV-223? It was one of the most amazing pieces of technology of that time, wasn’t it!?

If you are a fan of Alien film franchise, you have probably seen this cool, viral site for Weyland Industries, and are aware that the automated drones are called Spectagraphs – an antigravity device that 3D live-maps any foreign terrain, revolutionizing the pre-process of terraforming and developing new colonies (patented in 2063!).

Well, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano recently had his Prometheus moment when he went to explore caverns in a historic fishing port of Sicily. He used a drone to map narrow areas that are too precarious for humans to reach. Albeit, this drone deliberately bumped into its surroundings to learn navigation in tight spaces and to build a map.

ESA devices cave exploration exercises for its astronauts because these parallel the exploration of outer space – working in tight spaces, no sunlight, and complete reliance on technology.

ESA’s course coordinator, Francesco Sauro, explained how this exercise might help in the future: “The drone used its thermal camera to map how the cave continued all the way to an unexplored area featuring water, impossible to reach for humans. These tests will help us understand which technologies can be used in the future exploration of lava tubes on Mars, for example.” Now that’s something even Ridley Scott would be proud of!

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