NASA’s new Hedgehog robot is the innovative prototype that is set to overcome the challenges that other spacecrafts have not managed to in the past.
By far, the most interesting thing about the Hedgehog robot is its shape, that is tailor made for the low gravity environments that it has to thrive in on the asteroids it is aimed to explore.
The team of researchers from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University have come up with two amazing Hedgehog prototypes that have a great chance of thriving in low gravity environments.
“Hedgehog is a different kind of robot that would hop and tumble on the surface instead of rolling on wheels,” said Issa Nesnas, the head of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in an official news release.
The first Hedgehog prototype comes from Stanford, it is shaped like a cube and it has small spikes on every edge that have multiple uses. They can serve as pillars, so as to provide balance to the robot, they have incorporated flywheels and they also include special devices that can collect samples from the asteroids or comets.
The main advantage that this particular shape provides is that the Hedgehog robot can function properly regardless of the side it lands on.
Previous experience has demonstrated that wheel-based probes are not efficient in asteroid or comet environments, because it is all too easy for these to fall and stumble on the wrong side.
This is why the Hedgehog was meant to stumble and hop its way on the asteroids, as an adaptation to the hostile conditions present there.
As for the second Hedgehog prototype, it comes from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and it has eight longer spikes and a disk-based breaking system, as opposed to the Stanford prototype that has a friction belt-based one.
The breaking system is a very important part of the robot, as it has a crucial role in its movement pattern. It seems that the two types of breaking systems for the flywheels can determine a “hopping angle” for the robot.
The next phases of the research surrounding the Hedgehog robot will focus on discovering the advantages and the disadvantages of each prototype, so that the best one of the two can be chosen.
It remains to be seen what the final shape of NASA’s Hedgehog robot will be, but we will definitely be hearing a lot about it in the years to come.
Image Source: piercepioneer