The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has unveiled Axel, a prototype rover that is capable of traversing extremely rough terrain, including rappelling off cliffs, traveling over steep and rocky terrain, and exploring deep craters. NASA says Axel could help future robotic spacecraft better explore and investigate foreign planets such as Mars, and help search-and-rescue missions explore dangerous terrain on Earth. The single-axel robot contains computing and wireless communications capabilities, has an inertial sensor for autonomous operations, and is capable of operating upside down and right side up. Axel also has a tether that allows it to attach to and descend from a larger lander, rover, or another anchor point. The single-axel design allows the robot to be part of a larger system in which an Axel robot could be deployed by a larger rover to explore steep terrain, or multiple Axel rovers could be coordinated in a variety of configurations to carry larger payload modules.
Axel also could become part of the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR) project that NASA recently announced. The EATR project is intended to develop and demonstrate an autonomous robotic platform capable of performing long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling.
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