Washington, Feb 5 (ANI): Engineers have designed and tested a versatile, low-mass robot that can rappel off cliffs, travel nimbly over steep and rocky terrain, and explore deep craters, which might help future robotic spacecraft better explore and investigate planets such as Mars.
The robot has been designed by engineers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and students at the California Institute of Technology.
While Axle may help robotic spacecraft explore foreign worlds such as Mars, on Earth, it might assist in search-and-rescue operations.
"Axel extends our ability to explore terrains that we haven't been able to explore in the past, such as deep craters with vertically-sloped promontories," said Axel's principal investigator, Issa A.D. Nesnas, of JPL's robotics and mobility section.
"Also, because Axel is relatively low-mass, a mission may carry a number of Axel rovers. That would give us the opportunity to be more aggressive with the terrain we would explore, while keeping the overall risk manageable," he added.
The simple and elegant design of Axel, which can operate both upside down and right side up, uses only three motors: one to control each of its two wheels and a third to control a lever.
The lever contains a scoop to gather lunar or planetary material for scientists to study, and it also adjusts the robot's two stereo cameras, which can tilt 360 degrees.
Axel's cylindrical body has computing and wireless communications capabilities and an inertial sensor to operate autonomously.
It also sports a tether that Axel can unreel to descend from a larger lander, rover or anchor point.
The rover can use different wheel types, from large foldable wheels to inflatable ones, which help the rover tolerate a hard landing and handle rocky terrain. (ANI)