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NASAís Squishable Robot Ideal For Exploring Titan, Saturnís Largest Moon
Digital Trends ^ | December 27, 2013 | Trevor Mogg

Posted on 12/29/2013 7:56:41 PM PST by lbryce

The extreme challenges and conditions faced by rovers during missions to explore other planets has inspired researchers and engineers to look into alternative, more suitable designs.

After considering the complicated choreography of a regular landing – as we saw with the Mars Curiosity rover in August last year – as well as the challenging terrain a rover often faces once it reaches a planet’s surface, engineers at NASA have come up with an ultra-flexible squishable robot designed to effortlessly cope with any planetary surface it finds itself on.

Although the so-called Super Ball Bot has been in development for some time, it’s only this week that we’ve been able to see a prototype of the creation in action (check it out in the video below).

Made up of hollow cylindrical rods connected by flexible materials such as elastic cable, the clever design draws on the principles of ‘tensegrity’ (a portmanteau of ‘tensional’ and ‘integrity’), allowing any impact to be safely absorbed along multiple paths.

The ball bot essentially rolls along a surface, adjusting rapidly and effortlessly to its environment no matter how challenging it happens to be. Scientific instruments for collecting and transmitting data could be housed inside the cylindrical rods.

Its durability and flexibility means it can actually be dropped onto a planet’s surface from a great distance – as high up as 62 miles (100 km) – thereby eliminating the need for complex multi-stage landing procedures involving parachutes, retrorockets, and other such paraphernalia.

The team behind the robot is considering sending it to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, which has an atmosphere so thick that a relatively simple parachute-free landing is a real possibility.

Another advantage of NASA’s ball bot is its small size when packed, with the space agency envisioning sending hundreds of them on a single mission. Upon arrival their destination, the bots would be able to automatically spring into shape. Although the highly capable rovers currently in operation are able to send back a wealth of information about their environment, imagine how much data could be collected by hundreds of these ball bots roaming a planet’s surface.

While the ball bot is still some way off being ready for deployment – engineers are currently tackling the issue of precise movement – there’s an excellent chance that these remarkable collapsing robots will one day be rolling across faraway planets and moons, sending back information that could help us unlock the enduring mysteries of our solar system and beyond.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: nasa; saturn; space; titan
Boggles the Mind.

YouTube:This Jumble of Tent POles Could Be NASA's Next Titan-Exploring Robot

1 posted on 12/29/2013 7:56:41 PM PST by lbryce
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To: lbryce

I can just hear the folks on Titan complaining about the hicks from Earth Dumping their aluminum beer cans all over the joint..

Your right very cool..


2 posted on 12/29/2013 8:02:58 PM PST by montanajoe
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To: lbryce

While it’s sure a goofy looking thing, but something fast and cheap to explore a VERY interesting moon, hell yeah!

Send some to Enceladus and lets see them ice geysers.


3 posted on 12/29/2013 8:20:20 PM PST by Farnsworth (Now playing in America: "Stupid is the new normal")
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To: JoeProBono; Salamander; Slings and Arrows; TheOldLady; Vendome
Next stop - Tralfamadore!


4 posted on 12/29/2013 8:31:35 PM PST by shibumi (Cover it with gas and set it on fire.)
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To: SeraphimApprentice

Looks familiar.


5 posted on 12/29/2013 8:46:15 PM PST by zot
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To: shibumi

That is more of what I expected from a squishable robot.


6 posted on 12/29/2013 8:49:54 PM PST by D Rider
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To: shibumi

Are you expecting Montana Wildhack?


7 posted on 12/29/2013 8:51:20 PM PST by TheOldLady
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To: shibumi

8 posted on 12/29/2013 8:56:00 PM PST by JoeProBono (SOME IMAGES MAY BE DISTURBING VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED;-{)
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To: TheOldLady

She came later. (A-Hem!) In Slaughterhouse Five.

As it turned out the girls on Titan were just statues.


9 posted on 12/29/2013 9:23:04 PM PST by shibumi (Cover it with gas and set it on fire.)
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To: shibumi

What a shame!


10 posted on 12/29/2013 9:25:12 PM PST by TheOldLady
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To: JoeProBono

And a furry Salo to you too!


11 posted on 12/29/2013 9:26:43 PM PST by shibumi (Cover it with gas and set it on fire.)
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To: TheOldLady

By the way - Welcome back from wherever you were.


12 posted on 12/29/2013 9:28:23 PM PST by shibumi (Cover it with gas and set it on fire.)
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To: shibumi

Thank you, my friend. Just took a little break to fall back and regroup.


13 posted on 12/29/2013 9:42:49 PM PST by TheOldLady
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To: SunkenCiv
You might find this interesting.

Exploring Saturn's Largest Moon Titan by NASA's Squishable Robot

14 posted on 12/31/2013 12:01:40 PM PST by lbryce (Obama:The Worst is Yet To Come)
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