In fact, the chemical soup—which includes traces of hydrogen sulfide and methane—isn’t a viable food source for most living things. But that’s precisely one of the main goals of the expedition: to get NUI to work—and think—autonomously in an unforgiving place that typically requires an experienced ROV pilot at the controls. The technology is being developed as part of NASA’s Planetary Science and Technology from Analog Research (PSTAR) interdisciplinary research program. Pachiadaki sees a small patch of microbial mat she’d like the robot to sample from Kolumbo’s mineral-rich seafloor. Machado surrenders her Xbox controller as Billings punches a few commands and the computer brain takes control of the arm.