PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The surface of the moon is a long way from Carnegie Mellon University.

Monday morning, the CMU Robotics Institute unveiled the prototype for Polaris, a robotic vehicle slated to drill for polar ice buried in moon dust.

“This could be the great beginning of resource utilization beyond planet earth,” says Red Whittaker, CEO of Astrobotic Technology at CMU.

He says the drill will probe for ice buried up to a meter beneath the lunar soil.

“The ice does not exist in the top ten inches of the material. That is the dry powdery dust. And then from there down, the ice is speculated.”

The lunar day spans 14 earth days, enabling Polaris to be powered by solar cells.

“They are arrayed vertically because the sun at the pole comes in directly from the horizon,” Whittaker says, “and never overhead.”

The robot explorer is scheduled to launch in 2015. If ice is found, it could be a source of water, fuel and oxygen for future expeditions.

“This certainly is not the last rodeo,” Whittaker says. “This will be a tremendous accomplishment for the region, for the university, for science, for resources and for the world to come.”

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