Here is the latest episode of the Planetary Post with Robert Picardo, sponsored by the Planetary SocietyBehind the Scenes with Bill Nye 

And here is a video providing more details about the Society’s PlanetVac Xodiac project mentioned by Picardo. The project is a Society-led collaboration with HoneyBee Robotics and Masten Space Systems.

The goal is to design, build, and demonstrate a low cost system for gathering a sample of material from the surface of a planet or moon. They plan to attach a prototype version to a Masten vertical-takeoff and landing rocket vehicle and do a demo mission in California.

… Enter PlanetVac—short for Planetary Vacuum—a project by Honeybee Robotics sponsored by The Planetary Society. In 2013, we helped fund a successful test of this next-generation system in the lab, and in May, we’re taking it out for a test flight on a rocket called Xodiac. Xodiac, built by Masten Space Systems, takes off and lands vertically in California’s Mojave Desert. This allows space hardware developers to test new equipment and make sure prototypes can survive the stresses of a rocket launch and landing—all without actually flying to space. Our May Xodiac test will give PlanetVac a bigger challenge than the lab and represent the next step in qualifying it for full-fledged space missions.

PLANETVAC SAMPLE COLLECTION: Attached to a lander leg, PlanetVac collects a surface sample by using an inert gas to move regolith into the sample container.

The Society is seeking donations for crowd-funding the project: PlanetVac at the Planetary Society.