The Helmholtz Alliance „Robotic Exploration of Extreme Environments – ROBEX“ brings together the world’s first integrated space and deep-sea research group. A total of 16 institutions from all over Germany are jointly developing technologies to improve the exploration of environments with extreme conditions such as deep sea, Polar Regions, the Earth’s moon and other celestial bodies.
In the first ROBEX-year, the two scientific communities got to know each other whilst taking part in various workshops, introduced the respective challenges of each of their research areas to each other and agreed on a common solution concept for integrating both research environments.
The different scientific questions that we aim to answer with research on the Moon and within the deep sea should be addressed by the combined community with a common method, (we will focus on the remote conduction of seismic surveys operating in different extreme environments), and with common technological solutions. To this end, it was agreed within the first year to develop and build together a combination of a stationary system with one or more mobile elements. The stationary system should provide as a central node for energy supply and data exchange (a Lander system), with the mobile elements performing the actual scientific exploration, be deployment within the deep sea or on the Moon.
It is the overarching objective of the ROBEX Alliance to equip these combined systems with innovative technologies for energy exchange, data transfer and as much autonomy as possible. The complex interaction between the elements in both the deep sea as well as in a so-called “Moon-analog landscape“ should be demonstrated during demo missions in the final year of the Alliance. In addition to the central projects which should lead to the demonstration missions, 13 design team projects were also established. Within these design teams researchers and engineers work together interdisciplinary and develop technological solutions to research and technical problems, with both sides (marine and space partners) using their respective expertise to benefit the other. Thus, for example, an underwater glider is being built by one of the design teams, with the marine technicians greatly benefiting from the integration of know-how provided by an aviation institute within ROBEX. Another example is the design team high performance concrete, in which the TU-Dresden, after they originally became involved in the Alliance because of their development of concepts for the production of concrete from lunar regolith, are now developing, with input from the marine community, highly innovative underwater pressure housings.
The Helmholtz Alliance is accompanied by an extensive training and doctoral program, so that the general public, teachers and students, as well as young scientists are involved in the progress of this new synergy between previously separate research communities.