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Dante breaks four legs.

Dante, an eight-legged robot equipped with stereoscopic vision and electronic measuring tools, was built to explore the hellish interior of a smoldering volcano in Antarctica (SN: 6/6/92, p.376). But last week, days before its mission was to begin, Dante was waylaid by another hell: a slag heap in Pittsburgh.

For some 19 hours, beginning on the morning of Nov. 3, researchers who designed Dante at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh put the climbing robot through a trial run on the roughest terrain available -- a mile-wide pile of metal cinders left over from one of the city's old steel mills. But as the $2 million robot climbed up part of the slag heap at about 4 a.m. on Nov. 4, its four hind legs broke off and the robot sat down, unharmed but immobile, on its rear end.

David Pahnos of Carnegie Mellon attributes the accident to improper welding and calls the setback only temporary. After its builders complete repairs -- either rewelding all of Dante's aluminum legs or outfitting it with new ones -- researchers will continue testing. They hope to fly Dante to Antarctica around Christmas. If all goes well, the robot will explore the crater floor of volcanically active Mt. Erebus during the first two weeks of 1993 -- just before the end of austral summer, when such studies must halt for the year.
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Title Annotation:eight-legged robot built to explore volcano in Antarctica breaks legs during trial run
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 14, 1992
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