Feeds

NASA births cliff-hanging yo-yo bot

Gravity's a bitch

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA boffins said today they've built and tested a small and relatively simple robot that can rappel down cliffs, traverse steep terrain, and tarry about in inhospitable craters other rovers would fear to tread.

The robo prototype, called Axel, was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and students at the California Institute of Technology. The engineers hope Axel's design can be used to aid future exploration of Mars — or even assist in Earthly search-and-rescue missions.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL

Axel rover — named for its single axel design and not the Guns N' Roses front man — was made with the goal of minimal complexity in mind. The rover is powered by only three actuators: two for its wheels and one for the multi-purpose trailing link.

The link works as a lever arm against wheel thrust, can adjust the pitch for Axel's twin cameras, or simply serve a backup actuator should one of the wheel actuators fail.

Axel can also work like a yo-yo, reeling out a tether that could be attached to a larger lander and pulling it back in to explore the universe's many patches of horizontally-challenged ground.

Axel concept tethered to a rover. NASA/JPL

"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 principal investigator, Issa Nesnas of JPL. "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."

The rover can also sport several types of wheels designed to suit the territory being explored, from large fold-able metal wheels to inflatable wheels. (Sadly, no wheels with rims that keep spinning every time you stop.)

Fitted into Axel's compact cylindrical body are computational and communication modules and an inertial sensor for navigation without a human steering and obstacle avoidance.

JPL began its work on Axel in 1999, in a partnership with Purdue University Indiana and Arkansas University.

You can watch a nifty video of Axel in action here. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.