Leaping robot rover that mimics deer and antelope could be space probe of the future
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A deer-like robot which may be the future of planetary exploration has been filmed being put through its paces by bouncing around a lab ping-pong style in simulated lunar gravity.
Researchers from ETH Zurich’s Robotic Systems Lab have teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to push SpaceBok, the space-exploration robot, to the limit.
The machine is based on animals like deer and antelope (springbok) and is designed to operate in low-gravity environments like moons and asteroids. It is capable of ‘dynamic walking’ that mimics its namesake animals here on Earth.
Rovers of the past like Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity have used wheels and tracks while, more recently, MASCOT hooped across the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, in a great leap for robot kind.
Taking inspiration from NASA astronauts and lunar pioneers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who quickly figured out the most efficient method of getting around in low-gravity environments, the team concentrated on controlled leaps and hops as a method of traversing extraterrestrial terrain.
“For the lower gravity environments of the Moon, Mars or asteroids, jumping off the ground like this turns out to be a very efficient way to get around,” Kolvenbach said in a press release.
Recent developments in computational power and algorithmic efficiency have allowed the SpaceBok’s creators to produce a robot that can execute controlled leaps and bounds, reaching heights of 1.3 meters (4.2 feet).
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