Developing Extra-Vehicular Robotics (EVRs) that use different methods of locomotion and manipulation is one strategy for coping with the bigger, heavier payloads of future space science platforms and vehicles, especially those in orbit. NASA researchers are looking at arachnid modes of locomotion for such operations, such as its Spidernaut. A spider's eight legs give it a multipoint stance with as many as seven down during a step. This allows footholds that can be more easily supported and that spread climbing loads more evenly across a structure without imparting torques. Spidernaut could carry large payloads across delicate solar arrays or telescopes, with very little structural loading. Spidernaut is being constructed at about 1/4 of its estimated final size. A one-leg test bed was constructed to perfect leg kinematics and walking capabilities. Researchers then built a successor two-leg prototype to test software and onboard electronics. Combined with an additional wheeled support structure, the two-legged model used linear actuators in a 3-degrees-of-freedom design that supports 100 lbs. per leg pair. Before building the eight-legged version, Spidernaut's hip actuator packaging was reduced, and flex between the leg and connecting structure was eliminated. (Source: NASA)
Beth and Ann, that is a motley crew. Actually the NASA robot looks a little like the bounty hunter from Star Wars, doesn't it? I wonder that the Curiosity rover was not pictured. It seems to be one of the most complex yet.
Nice slide show, Ann. Certainly depicts the wide range of robots, some humanoid and some mimicking insects and animals, that are an on-going part of the space program. It's interesting that so much of what you see in this slide show that was once only the domain of government-backed space programs is now filtering down into more mainstream applications.