About this Research Topic
There are ambitious plans afoot to send human and robotic explorers to the far corners of the solar system to perform orbital, surface, and even subsurface exploration. These explorers are being prepared to investigate extreme environments including caves, canyons, cliffs, crater walls and other high-priority geological targets that could shed insight into the formation of the early solar system, formation of planets and moons, the existence of liquid water and life-supporting biochemicals, in addition to past and present habitability. Some of these geological formations like caves and remnant lava-tubes are of particular interest as they are better sheltered from weathering and could capture past geology and evolution of these bodies. These geological features are often located well below the surface and are well insulated from solar weathering, radiation, micro-meteorites, and daily as well as annular temperature swings that impact a planet or moon’s surface. Lava tubes are thought to have milder temperature s, causing some to propose these caves and lava tubes as ideal shelters for human astronauts to build a base and seek protection for long periods.
Exploration of these high-priority targets is a challenge as the conditions on some planets and small bodies are not well understood. Yet, rapid advances are being made possible by technological innovations in robotics and space systems. Innovations include increased miniaturization, advancements in reliability and robustness, improved guidance and navigation, and increased computation capabilities. The rapid advancements in the field span multiple disciplines including computation, simulation, autonomy, mobility, system-design, guidance, navigation, control, actuation and sensing, power and communication systems. Thanks to these advancements we are seeing whole new space mission concepts, strategies for accessing previously inaccessible environments and for facilitating sample-return and permanent monitoring.
We welcome the latest research papers covering robotic exploration off-world with a focus on extreme environment exploration for this Frontiers in Robotics and AI Research Topic. We especially encourage multidisciplinary papers that propose applications of the latest advances in science and technology towards the exploration of these unknown environments.
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.