A new space exploration robot is being designed to hop and tumble over the rugged terrain of steroids and comets.
It is difficult to explore steroids, comets or even a small moon like Mars, so, NASA went on something much lighter, smaller, and not to mention, cuter rover. The team is creating a new kind of robot that would be very much ideal for navigating small celestial bodies, they developed – The Hedgehog Bot!
However, still in the prototype phase at this point, the bot is cube-shaped and spiky at the corners, designed to “hop and tumble” instead of rolling like a traditional rover. Internal flywheels power the bot’s movement, and it can remain operational no matter which side it’s on.
Back in June, two prototypes were put to the test on NASA’s C-9 aircraft, also known as “the vomit comet.” Researchers were able to observe the Hedgehogs in microgravity, the sort of condition they’d be subject to on the body of a real comet.
In addition to a movement called a “yaw,” where the bot turns in place to face its intended direction, researchers confirmed it can do a “tornado” maneuver, where the bot spins fast enough to launch itself from the surface in case of a sinkhole or other sticky situation.
The Hedgehog bots are tiny, weighing only 11 pounds, and are relatively cheaper to produce than a full-sized rover. The project is still in phase II development, and now its engineers are looking for ways to give it more autonomy, so it can make navigational decisions without constant instruction.
via JPL NASA and Motherboard Vice