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)
Warren, I'm with you on the creepiness factor of the Crawlers and, even more so, Spidernaut. But I found the analysis of Spidernaut's gait extremely interesting--more legs means more (potential) stability) on rough ground, assuming they are coordinated correctly.
Sadly, they would have been the most popular agency, group, band of heroes on earth if they had kept going to the moon. As a young adult I followed every launch and update. No wonder the American people got so disallusioned with NASA. The Space Shuttle was not very exciting. I don't care about the logistics of manned space flight. The American people love the excitement of space- Star Trek, Star Wars, ET, etc. shows where the money is. And it ain't in space lab, no matter the value!
As I recall, NASA's moon program was cut short by the government. There were supposed to be two more Apollo flights than actually happened. The program was axed by Congress on the grounds that we had proved our point and the money was better spent elsewhere.
Too bad. The next logical step would have been a permanent outpost on the Moon. The shuttles near earth capability was originally supposed to be a stepping stone in that direction.
Besides being a "great title for a "B" movie, why can't they build cars and airplanes out of the same stuff they built Voyager? That little puppy has been gone for 35 years and counting!
Great slide show, although some of them might give me nightmares, like the crawler spidery thingie.
I have always been impressed with how NASA not only keeps up but sets the bar for new things technology. Too bad they weren't smart enough to go back to the moon and keep the public's interest up, so they could get sufficient funding. And that is from a guy who thinks the government overreaches its authority doing such things.
I agree, Naperlou. The NASA robot does look like the bounty hunter from Star Wars. When I look at the headline of this article and look at the GM Robonaut photo, I am also reminded of the line, "Danger, Will Robinson."
Image 7, of the German DLR crawlers, is just plain scary.
By rights, the ESA ATV cargo craft that has flown to the space station 3 times, and the Russian Progress cargo craft that has gone to ISS dozens of times belong in this list. Both of those vehicle types dock automatically (albeit with a manual control backup mode).
The Japanese ATV and SpaceX vehicles are not as capable; they rendezvous automatically but must be docked using a different robot (CanadArm2).
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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