A robot wheels across a rocky, windswept landscape that looks like the surface of some distant planet from a science fiction film. But it is not in outer space, it's on the slopes of Europe's most active volcano. Mount Etna, in Sicily, is a test bed for the approximately three-foot high, four-wheeled machine ahead of a future mission to the moon.
The program has enlisted experts from Germany, Britain, the United States and Italy to research ROBEX (Robotic Exploration of Extreme Environments) with the aim of improving robotic equipment that will be used in space.
"This is aimed at simulating a future, hypothetical landing mission on the moon or Mars and they use a lot of robots which are there to transport and install different instruments", said Boris Behncke, a volcanologist from the National Vulcanology Institute in Catania, near Mount Etna.
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