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DFKI's Space Rovers and Hexapods Will Team Up on Other Planets

A hexapod-laden rover is destined to search for water in lunar craters

2 min read
DFKI's Space Rovers and Hexapods Will Team Up on Other Planets

Why send just one robot into space when you could send two robots into space instead? We did it with Spirit and Opportunity, and that worked out great  is mostly still working out great. It would have been working out even better, though, if we'd let Spirit and Oppy get each other's backs and team up to do some extra exploring. That's the idea that DFKI Bremen has been testing with its pair of space robots: a four wheeled rover named SHERPA and a hexapod named CREX.

Here's an overview animation that should give you a good idea of how these two robots are intended to work together, with CREX stowed safely away under SHERPA's belly until it's ready to come out and play. The project as a whole is called RIMRES, for Reconfigurable Integrated Multi Robot Exploration System:


So that's a kinda awesome, but what's really awesome is how much of this system is already implemented. Here's SHERPA deploying CREX with its manipulator:


As the concept video shows, the idea here is that whenever SHERPA finds an especially exciting piece of geology (like a cliff or a crater), it can send CREX and all six of its legs down to investigate. JPL has been working on something similar with its Axel rover, specifically designed for crater entry.

Speaking of exciting pieces of geology, the reason that the whole Spirit and Opportunity thing is only mostly working out great is because Spirit got stuck in a bad patch of sand and couldn't get out. While JPL tried a bunch of different techniques to free the rover, an especially clever little kid (seven years old, name of Julian) sent in this idea:


Unfortunately, Spirit's arm wasn't strong enough to lift it, but DFKI isn't having any of that with SHERPA. Check it out:

The SHERPA rover, for the record, weighs 200kg.

The first place the RAMIRES robots are destined for is likely going to be the Moon, where CREX will go spelunking down into deep lunar pole craters and caves looking for stashes of ice and other volatiles. Here's one more video of CREX being all hexapod-y, and you can find lots more info (including more vids) at the links below.




[ CREX ]

[ DFKI @ YouTube ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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