The Geotechnical Tool is imperative to gather essential engineering data to determine bearing strength, density, and trafficability of regolith. This is most useful to establish the stability of massive structures, set up resource mining operations, and survey exploration sites and routes. In addition, soil physical properties are used to help interpret surface geologic processes and to constrain the origins and formation processes of the soil. The Stinger is, therefore, not only a necessary surveying and exploratory tool, but a valuable scientific instrument as well, which would prove to be most useful for lunar missions and for ongoing exploration on Mars. In addition to penetrometer applications, the percussive mechanism could be used for rapid excavation (via an impact-actuated digging tool), setting anchors into the ground, and for rotary-percussive drilling systems. The system will be designed with a goal of minimizing system mass so that it might be mounted on small platforms like NASA's Centaur2 and also be human-deployable. Honeybee Robotics is a NASA-approved flight vendor and is therefore in the unique position to take a mechanism, such as that proposed, from low TRL to TRL 9, a successfully deployed flight unit. Honeybee has designed and built three critical flight components for Mars flight missions: Rock Abrasion Tool for 2003 MER, Robotic Arm Scoop for 2007 Phoenix Mars Mission, Sample Manipulation System and Dust Removal Tool for 2011 Mars Surface Laboratory.
There is a general need for systems that provide rapid and more reliable soil characterization and the Geo Tool could provide this. Some of the applications include oilsands bearing strength assessment (this is required by law in the state of Alberta), environmental monitoring of industrial sites, agricultural surveys, and soil remediation. The military has expressed the nead for a rapid near-surface soil characterization tool, something that can be carried and deployed by a single soldier, with the data acquired and processed by someone with no or little training. Currently we are in the process of negotiating a contract that could start as soon as April of 2016.