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Maryland-Controlled Rover Measures Greenland Ice Cap

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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GREENBELT, Md. (WJZ) —  NASA has a history of sending robotic rovers to Mars but its latest will work right here on Earth.

Alex DeMetrick reports its target is an ice sheet two miles thick.

The center of Greenland is one gigantic flat sheet of ice, built up from centuries of snowfalls into a two mile high plateau. It’s where Grover—short for Greenland Rover—will work this summer. It will use ground-penetrating radar.

“And measure the inflections in the ice below to tell us how much snow has accumulated every season going back hundreds of years,” said Michael Comberiate, Goddard Space Flight Center.

Which may help determine how fast Greenland’s ice is melting. As Arctic waters warm, evaporation produces more snow over the ice sheet.

“The increased snowfall inland, higher, pushing down toward the sea and then breaking off faster,” said Comberiate.

Into flows and icebergs that will melt, increasing the risks of sea level rise.

“Grover should be able to gather more data than a human could working in the ice sheet environment,” said Lora Koenig, Goddard Space Flight Center.

Research is only part of the payoff, because this rover was designed and built by college students—and that experience is valuable.

“Because the job industry is pretty tight and everybody’s got A’s. What we need is somebody to show me he did something and can do something. That’s the go-to guy right there,” Comberiate said.

The end result was this prototype, powered by solar panels when the sun shines and by wind when it doesn’t.

Moving on converted snowmobile treads, it’s been tested on the beach, refined and tested again in Alaska and is now starting work above the glaciers of Greenland.

Grover will receive basic instructions via satellites but otherwise will operate on its own during the next four months.

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