U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) researchers are developing an interstellar robot that is spherical, travels by rolling, and could land on a planet by simply hitting the surface and bouncing.
The robot has no rigid connections, no legs, and no wheels or tracks, making it uniquely robust and lightweight.
"I've been looking at using this design principle in robotics because you see it used all through biology," says NASA's Vytas Sunspiral. He notes that one of the reasons biology would use this structure is because the tension network makes the body a robust system. In addition, the robot "would be better at going around or over obstacles and would have advantages against getting stuck," Sunspiral says.
The ball robot, which has an outer shell of rods and cables, could carry another sphere inside, connected by cables to the outer shell. The robot's power, batteries, scientific equipment, and computers would be in the internal sphere. The research could be advanced enough by 2020 to begin discussions about getting ball bots mission-ready, according to Sunspiral.
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