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NASA's LEMUR robot escaped Death Valley's latest field test

JPL sent the latest version of LEMUR on a cliff earlier this year. The robot's artificial intelligence chose its own route and used the hundreds of fishhooks embedded in each of its 16 fingers to climb. All his scientific instruments swept the rock in search of ancient fossils. LEMUR was able to reach its goal and find fossilized algae, which once inhabited the sea that was in the region. These fossils date back about 500 million years, proving the robot's ability to detect the signs of its previous life – an important ability for machines exploring other planets.

Although the LEMUR project is over, it has inspired other climbing robot initiatives already underway. The JPL Iceworm has been adapted from a branch of the LEMUR robot and is designed to scale ice walls in frozen worlds, like Enceladus, the moon of Saturn. RoboSimian, originally built for the robotics DARPA Challenge as a rescue robot, has four members like LEMUR.

The underwater clamp is virtually one of the members of LEMUR with the same hook-fed gripping fingers designed for underwater exploration. Even the March 2020 mission helicopter will have a LEMUR claw-foot piercing mechanism adapter to be able to hang on cliff walls. It simply means that even if the LEMUR robot itself will not go to space, the technologies derived from the project will help us explore worlds outside ours.

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