NASA is currently developing a space exploration robot that could hop on the uneven terrain of rough planets.
Smaller space objects with rather weak gravitational fields such as asteroids and comets will be soon explored by a robot specifically designed for this situation. Any other space craft available right now would experience difficulties when trying to move on the rugged surface of these space objects.
Discovery News said in one of their recent articles that even wheeled robots like the Mars rovers would be unable to move on a comet. Because of the microgravity it is possible for the rover to flip over due to the high inertia.
Landing will also not be an easy task for the people at NASA. They claim that even their shock-resistant lander Philae would face serious difficulties. Philae previously landed inconveniently on the surface of a comet when its harpoon system crashed.
By teaming up with engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Stanford University, NASA hopes to design a robot that will be capable of overcoming all the challenges raised by microgravity fields. The robot is in early development but the agency claimed that it would resemble the movement of a hedgehog. Obviously, NASA appropriately dubbed the robot “Hedgehog”.
Hedgehog will be the first robot made by NASA that will be able to hop and tumble on the surface. It will be shaped like a cube and will be able to operate conveniently on any side it lands on.
So far there are two Hedgehog prototypes, one with rounded corners and one with two long spines that will act as sampling probes. Both prototypes are equipped with a system of wheels that will make the robot hop, turn, and rotate.
The Hedgehog robot performed exemplary in low gravity simulations so far, so NASA is already making preparations to send their new robot to outer-space.
Photo credits: flickr