NASA Engineers Are Working on Exploring Robots for Future Missions

first_img NASA engineers are working on a new fleet of robots that could be used to explore cliffs, polar caps, and other difficult spots on Mars and other planets in the future.Engineers recently designed a four-limbed robot called Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR), which can climb rock walls, grip with hundreds of small fishhooks in each of its 16 fingers, and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate around obstacles, said a NASA press release. LEMUR chose a route up a cliff and scanned the rock for ancient fossils in its last field test, which took place earlier this year.Even though it was originally designed as an International Space Station (ISS) repair robot, LEMUR helped kickstart a new generation of climbing, crawling, and walking robots. NASA robots with AI and climbing technology based on LEMUR could help search for signs of life in future missions to the Red Planet and other destinations.Currently, NASA engineers are developing five robots: The Ice Worm, the RoboSimian, micro-climbers, the Underwater Gripper, and a cliff-climbing mini-helicopter.The Ice Worm climbs an icy wall with an inchworm-like movement. (Photo Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)Icy and slippery surfaces can be tough on robots, but the Ice Worm, which is adopted from a single limb of LEMUR, moves by scrunching and extending its joints with an inchworm-like movement. This robot can scale walls by drilling one end at a time into hard surfaces. JPL project lead Aaron Parness tests Ice Worm on glaciers in Antarctica and ice caves on Mount St. Helens, so it can one day tackle the chilling landscapes of the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn, which might contain oceans under their frozen crusts.Climbing walls, especially those on other planets, could be a seamless task for micro-climbers, which are wheeled vehicles that can easily fit in a coat pocket but have the strength to scale walls and survive falls up to 9 feet. With adhesive technology inspired by a gecko’s sticky feet, some of these micro-climbers can easily cling to surfaces and they’ll come in handy for spacecraft repairs and exploring difficult spots on Mars, the Moon, and other future mission destinations.The RoboSimian standing on the Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley, California. (Photo Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)Unlike other robots, the RoboSimian can walk on four legs, crawl, move like an inchworm, and slide on its belly like a penguin. It has the same four limbs as LEMUR, however, its gripping feet were replaced with springy wheels made from music wire. Ice and crumbling ground won’t be a problem for this robot, which was designed to handle tough terrain in cold environments.JPL’s Underwater Gripper was created to enable a vehicle to grasp rough surfaces. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)Places that have almost zero gravity could be an additional challenge for robots. One potential solution for this could be devices built for ocean exploration, which can be prototypes for missions to these types of space destinations. The Underwater Gripper, which is one of the gripping hands from LEMUR, has the same 16 fingers and 250 fishhooks for gripping onto irregular surfaces. Currently, the Underwater Gripper is fastened to Nautilus, an underwater research vessel that is operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, off the coast of Hawaii.A tiny, solar-powered helicopter is accompanying NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, however, JPL engineer Arash Kalantari wants it to do more than just fly: He’s currently working on a gripper concept that might allow a flying robot to cling to cliffs on Mars. Based on LEMUR’s design, it has clawed feet with embedded fishhooks that cling to rock and it will also power up its batteries via solar panels.More on Geek.com:NASA’s ‘Tie-Dye’ Map Shows Surface Changes From California Quakes This Animated NASA Video Maps 4,000 Exoplanets in Deep SpaceNASA Satellites Spot Largest Seaweed Bloom in the World NASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This WeekendScientists Discover Possible Interstellar Visitor Stay on targetlast_img

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