Tuesday, 8 September 2015

NASA robot so cool that it can hop and tumble on rough territories


The conventional Mars rovers have wheels for rolling around and are unable to function upside down in rough territories.

In order to conquer this barrier, NASA scientists along with researchers from Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a Hedgehog robot weighing about 11 lbs that will be hopping and tumbling on the surface rather than rolling on wheels.
The robot has been designed specifically for overcoming the challenges of navigating small bodies such as asteroid or a comet with low-gravity conditions and bumpy surfaces.
Issa Nesnas, team leader of the project from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement that, “Hedgehog is shaped like a cube and can operate no matter which side it lands on.”

The construction cost of the robot is comparatively lower to a conventional one and several ones could be packed together for flight. The mothership could release many robots at the same time or one in stages.
The basic concept of such a rover is a cube with spikes which moves around by spinning and braking internal flywheels. The JPL Hedgehog prototype has 8 spikes and 3 flywheels, where the spikes helps in protecting the body of the robot from various territories and works as its feet while it hops and tumbles.

Nesnas added “The spikes could also house instruments such as thermal probes to take the temperature of the surface as the robot tumbles.”
There are two prototypes, one from Stanford and the other JPL which have been tested aboard NASA’s C-9 aircraft for microgravity research in June 2015.
In a course of 4 flights, during 180 parabolas, these robots have shown numerous maneuvers which would be of help for getting around on small bodies with reduced gravity.
Researchers have tested these maneuvers on diverse materials that imitate an extensive range of surfaces such as sandy, rough and rocky, slippery and icy, and soft and crumbly.
Robert Reid, lead engineer on the project at JPL said, “We demonstrated for the first time our Hedgehog prototypes performing controlled hopping and tumbling in comet-like environments.”
The team is anticipating that the robot could be weighing more than 9 kg with instruments like cameras and spectrometers and are currently working on Hedgehog’s autonomy trying to enhance how much the robots can do by themselves without any instructions from Earth.