Home / Science / NASA builds robots capable of climbing Mars, including an ice worm

NASA builds robots capable of climbing Mars, including an ice worm



NASA is no stranger to the construction of robots, having created those who currently explore Mars, visiting the International Space Station and those who look like inflatable "aliens".

But now, the space agency is working on robots that can do more than drive and explore, these robots can climb.

Known as the LEMUR (mechanical arm-mounted mechanical utility robot) and built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, this four-armed robot is able to climb rock walls using hooks. 16 fingers and artificial intelligence. In a blog post, JPL said that during his latest field test, LEMUR had been able to climb a cliff "while sweeping the rock in search of ancient sea fossils that once filled the area. ".

The LEMUR climbing robot rests after climbing a cliff in Death Valley, California. The robot uses a special gripping technology that has created a series of new off-road robots capable of exploring other worlds. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The LEMUR climbing robot rests after climbing a cliff in Death Valley, California. The robot uses a special gripping technology that has created a series of new off-road robots capable of exploring other worlds. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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No relation with the four-legged mammal that lives in Madagascar, LEMUR was designed to be originally a repair robot for the ISS. However, its use could be much more than that, helping to "lead to a new generation of robots walking, climbing and crawling," adds the blog.

Among the robots inspired by LEMUR are the iceworm, which "moves by wrinkling and extending its joints like a thumb worm" and is able to climb ice walls by drilling them. He uses LEMUR's AI and is being tested on Antarctic glaciers and Mount St. Helens ice caves.

Ice Worm climbs on an icy wall in the manner of a white worm, an adaptation of LEMUR's design. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Ice Worm climbs on an icy wall in the manner of a white worm, an adaptation of LEMUR's design. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The two largest planets in the solar system, Saturn and Jupiter, have icy moons, including Europa, which has plate tectonics and could be a potential home for life.

Other robots include RoboSimian, which was originally built by DARPA for disaster relief and whose wheels consist of piano strings instead of feet; micro-climbers, who are "small enough to fit in a coat pocket but strong enough to climb the walls and survive falls up to 9 feet"; and the underwater pliers, one of the striking hands developed by LEMUR.

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The underwater clamp could potentially be sent on an asteroid, which is not so different from what NASA does with its OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft, which recently hit the asteroid Bennu.

A tiny climbing robot wraps a wall, grabbing hooks - a technology adapted to LEMUR's gripping feet. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

A tiny climbing robot wraps a wall, grabbing hooks – a technology adapted to LEMUR's gripping feet. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

There is also the helicopter that will join the March 2020 rover during the next mission on the Red Planet to chase away alien life. The helicopter could also "hang on the Martian cliffs", using LEMUR's plans, in addition to flying around Mars.

"Meanwhile, the robot would recharge its batteries via solar panels, which would give him the freedom to move and search for traces of life," adds the blog.

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