RoboSimian and Ice Worm Are Two of the Coolest Robots NASA Is Working On

At the rate things are going in space exploration, it’s more than obvious that humanity will soon need robots that can do more than just trek on wheels on alien worlds. We might just have to scale rock walls, go underwater or navigate slippery surfaces. And NASA has just the solutions we need.
RoboSimian robot 5 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech
LEMUR robotGecko robotRoboSimian robotIce Worm robot
Designed at first to operate as a repair robot for the International Space Station, the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot, or LEMUR for short, is a new breed of robot. One that has 16 fingers, hundreds of fishhook-like gripping hardware on each of those fingers, and an artificial intelligence to power it along.

LEMUR was last put to the test at the beginning of the year in Death Valley, California. There, the robot decided on its own what route to take, and chose one that took it up a cliff. You can see all the action in the video below.

LEMUR's success prompted NASA into developing a new generation of robots based on LEMUR. And there are five of them in the works, most with very cool names attached: Ice Worm, RoboSImian, Underwater Gripper, Gecko Adhesive, and a nameless helicopter.

Ice Worm is a LEMUR derivative that can move the same way a worm does. By drilling holes in the ice, the robot can move one inch at a time on slippery surfaces and is ideal for the exploration of the freezing moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

RoboSImian is also meant for the same locations. It has been initially developed for DARPA as a disaster relief robot, and is equipped with four legs on which it can walk on. If that’s not possible, it can also move like a worm and even slide on its belly.

Gecko Adhesive is a tiny wheeled machine initially developed for the military. It can move about by using either LEMUR’s fishhook tech or by using its sticky feet, just like a gecko. This robot should come in handy on the Moon or Mars, as it can fit in very tiny spaces.

Underwater Gripper uses LEMUR gripping hands to navigate underwater environments. It is now being tested off the coast of Hawaii as a deep ocean sampler.

The unnamed helicopter is a mix between the LEMUR and the helicopter NASA is sending next year to Mars. It will be fitted with a perching mechanism that should allow it to climb the cliff and reach sunlight to recharge its batteries.

NASA did not say when any of these robots will be ready for deployment.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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