NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Creating Robots to Go Where Humans Can’t

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Creating Robots to Go The place People Can’t

JPL's RoboSimian and Surrogate Robots

RoboSimian and Surrogate are robots that have been designed and constructed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Credit score: JPL-Caltech

JPL is the lead NASA heart for robotic exploration, which implies we ship robots, not people, into house.

NASA has plans within the works to beat enormous challenges and ship people to Mars. Within the meantime, we’ve been sending rovers, landers, and orbiters to the floor of the Crimson Planet, and growing applied sciences to dispatch extra superior robots to different photo voltaic system locations, such because the Moon, asteroids, and Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

Many locales embrace such obstacles as craggy cliffs, steep canyons, and slick ice masking a subsurface ocean. We have to design and construct robots that may safely navigate and survive these difficult options and function our agile stand-in explorers.

JPL has developed subtle software program for all of the Mars rovers we’ve despatched that lets us preserve management right here on Earth. But we additionally write software program that permits the rovers to drive on the Martian floor as independently as attainable, place devices on the floor, and use their cameras and different devices to see and sense their environment.

Going Out on a Limb for Exploration

To discover future photo voltaic system locations, we’re experimenting with varied designs utilizing limbs and wheels.

For instance, a four-limbed, 64-fingered rover named LEMUR (Limbed Tour Mechanical Utility Robotic) was developed to scale rock partitions by gripping with a whole bunch of tiny fish hooks on every finger. That check mission led to a brand new era of robots that may stroll, climb, crawl, and even use grippers like a gecko to connect to surfaces.

As for robots that roll … JPL is, actually, reinventing the wheel, or at the least varied wheeled automobiles. The Axel Rover has two wheels and a hyperlink that trails behind, and a more moderen DuAxel attaches two Axel Rovers to at least one one other. They roll alongside as a duo till they encounter a steep slope. That’s when the 2 Axels separate, remaining hooked up solely by a tether, whereas one rolls away to rappel down the slope, then return to its associate. Different two-wheelers embrace a small, foldable, shoebox-sized robotic referred to as A-PUFFER that would sometime scour areas of the Moon not accessible to astronauts, and BRUIE, a submersible rover that would ultimately discover the subsurface oceans of the photo voltaic system’s icy moons.

These a number of configurations present extra choices for exploring Earth’s Moon, Mars, and presumably Europa. And for above-surface exploration, prototype airships are being examined to fly by the atmospheres of Venus and Saturn’s moon Titan. Future helicopter designs are being developed, to observe up on the Mars Helicopter carried by the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.

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