NASA has just officially announced that it is developing a type of robot that can do more than drive and explore: these machines can climb. The device has been dubbed LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) and is being built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The four-limbed robot can climb walls made of rock, using fishhooks in its 16 fingers, and artificial intelligence. JPL stated in a blog post that in its most recent field test, the robot was capable to scale a cliff while it scanned the rock for ancient fossils from the sea that once was located there.
LEMUR was initially created to be a repair robot for the International Space Station. But it may be used for more than that, helping ‘lead to a new generation of walking, climbing and crawling robots,’ the JPL noted in the blog post.
NASA is building LEMUR, a robot that climbs
Robots inspired by LEMUR include Ice Worm, which steps by scrunching and expanding its joints like an inchworm and can climb ice walls by perforating them. It uses LEMUR’s AI and is being trialed on glaciers in Antarctica and ice caves in Mount St. Helens at the moment.
Other robots include RoboSimian, which was initially created by DARPA for disaster relief and features wheels constructed of piano wire instead of feet. It also has micro-climbers, which are ‘sufficiently small to fit in a coat pocket but strong enough to scale walls and survive falls up to 9 feet.’
Lastly, Underwater Gripper robot has one of the riveting hands developed from LEMUR. The Underwater Gripper could probably be launched to an asteroid, similar to what NASA is doing with its OSIRIS-Rex probe, which not long ago arrived on the Bennu asteroid. Also, there is a helicopter that will be sent with the Mars 2020 rover on the future mission to the Red Planet to search for signs of alien life. The helicopter could have the ability to cling Martian cliffsides, as well, using features from LEMUR, besides exploring around Mars.
Bo has over six years experience as a teacher, advocate and speaker. He has a B.S. from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in Human rights from Harvard University Graduate School.