Robots can run on the plains and craters of Mars, but what if we could
explore rocks, polar caps and other hard-to-reach places on the red planet and
Besides? Designed by
engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a
four-limbed robot called LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) can
scale stone walls, gripping hundreds of small fishing hooks in each of its 16
fingers and use of artificial intelligence (AI) to find their way around obstacles.
In his last field test in Death Valley, California, in early 2019 chose LEMUR
a route up a cliff while scanning the rock for old fossils from the sea
there once filled the area.
originally conceived as a repair robot for the international space station.
Although the project has been completed since then, it has helped create a new generation
walk, climb and creep robots. In future missions to Mars or icy moons,
Robots with AI and climbing technology from LEMUR could help in
Look for similar signs of life. These robots are now being developed, honing technology
one day it may be part of future missions to distant worlds. Here are five in
A mechanical worm for innocent worlds
How does one work
robot navigate a smooth, icy surface? For isorm,
The answer is one inch at a time. Adapted from a single limb of LEMUR, Ice Worm
moves by scrunching and extends its joint as an inchworm. The robot climbs
ice walls by drilling one end at a time into the hard surface. It can use
same technique to stabilize yourself while taking scientific tests, even on one
gulf. The robot also has LEMUR's AI so it can navigate by learning
from previous errors. To refine his technical skills, the JPL project heads Aaron Parness
tests Isorm on glaciers in Antarctica and ice cave on Mount St. Helens, so that
one day it can contribute to the science of the earth and distant worlds: Ice Worm
is part of a generation of projects developed to explore the icy lakes
Saturn and Jupiter who can have sea under their frozen crust.
Robots can land on the Moon and run on Mars, but what about the places they can't reach? Designed by engineers such as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a four-limbed robot called LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) can climb on stone walls and seize hundreds of small fishing hooks into each of its 16 fingers and use artificial intelligence to find its way around obstacles. In his last field trial in Death Valley, California, in early 2019, LEMUR chose a route up a cliff and scanned the rock for ancient fossils from the ocean that once filled the area.
A Robot Monkey on the Tundra
Ice Worm is not
the only approach developed for icy worlds such as Saturn's Month Enceladus,
where geysers at the south pole spread liquid into the room. A rover in this unpredictable
The world would need to be able to move on ice and silty, crumbling ground. RoboSimian
is being developed to face this challenge.
as a disaster-relief robot for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),
It has been changed to move in an icy environment. Nickname "King Louie"
After the character in "The Jungle Book" RoboSimian can go on four
legs, crawling, moving like an empty worm and sliding on the stomach like a penguin. The
have the same four limbs as LEMUR, but JPL engineers replaced their gripping feet
with resilient wheels made of music wire (the kind of wire found in a piano). Flexible
The wheels help King Louie run over uneven ground, which would be crucial for one
place like enceladus
Wheeled vehicles are small enough to fit in a coat pocket but strong enough for
scale walls and survival falls up to 9 meters (3 meters). Developed by JPL for
military, some microclimbers use LEMUR's fishing hookers to cling to rough
surfaces such as stone and cave walls. Others can scale smooth surfaces using
technology inspired by a gecko sticky feet. Gecko-adhesive,
Like the four-legged it is named for, it depends on microscopic angled hair
generate van der Waals forces – nuclear forces that cause "stickiness"
if both items are nearby.
Gecko-like stickiness, the robots' hybrid wheels also use an electric charge
to cling to walls (the same phenomenon makes your hair a balloon after
You rub it on your head). JPL engineers created the gecko adhesive
First generation LEMUR using van der Waals forces to help it cling to metal
walls, even in gravity. Micro-climbers with this adhesive or gripping technology
be able to repair future spacecraft or explore difficult to reach the Moon, Mars
Ocean to Asteroid Grippers
train under water for space walks, technology built for marine research can be
a good prototype for missions to places with almost zero gravity. The Underwater
Gripper is one of the gripping hands of LEMUR, with the same 16
fingers and 250 fishing hooks to grip irregular surfaces. It could be one day
sent for operations on an asteroid or other small body in the solar system. To
Now it is linked to the underwater research vessel Nautilus, run by the Ocean Exploration Trust off the coast
of Hawaii, where it helps take deep ocean samples from more than a mile below
A Cliff-Climbing Mini-Helicopter
solar powered helicopter that comes with NASA's March 2020 rover will
Flying in short eruptions as a technology demonstration paves the way for the future
flying missions on the red planet. But JPL engineer Arash Kalantari is not
content to just fly; He develops a concept for a grab that could allow
a flying robot to cling to Martian Cliffsides. The perching mechanism is adapted
from LEMUR's design: It has clapped feet with embedded fishing hooks that grab rock
just like a bird sticks to a branch. While there, the robot would recharge it
batteries via solar panels, which gives it the freedom to roam and search
proof of life.
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.