Deep planetary drills offer a wealth of information to planetary geologists and astrobiologists. The Auto-Gopher drill is a wire-line rotary-hammer drill, whose depth of penetration is limited only by the length of the wire it is suspended from. This enables drilling at great depths, beyond the reach of traditional or telescoping drill architectures.
The Auto-Gopher drill has been successfully field tested in gypsum, which offers conditions similar to that of water-ice at low temperature. During a 2012 field test, the drill captured 32 cores down to a depth of 3 m, with cores pulled every 10 cm, over the course of 10 hours.
Auto-Gopher can be deployed from a variety of platforms, providing deep subsurface access with a small surface footprint. This technology also enables new in-situ analysis applications through integration of in-drill sensors — in essence, bringing the instruments to the deep subsurface sample.