Robotic Snake Rovers On Mars?
Kyle Maxey posted on September 19, 2013 |

snake, robot, mars, ESA, NASA, space, geologySuccessive rover missions have given scientists a detailed view of Mars.  To compensate for the rovers’ inability to explore the interesting nooks and crannies of Mars, researchers at the European Space Agency (ESA) are developing robotic snakes that might slither across the Martian surface.

In the new ESA concept, robotic snake-like explorers would be teamed with a traditional rover to expand the variety of territory scientists could explore. The ESA is working on two main ideas that involve slithering robot surveyors.  

The first option calls for building a rover that’s equipped with a removable arm.  The arm would transform into a serpentine robot, "with the ability to disconnect and reconnect itself, so that it can be lowered to the ground, where it can crawl about independently" explained ESA researcher Aksel Transeth.

snake, robot, mars, ESA, NASA, space, geologyThe second option, which takes a more mechanized approach, would outfit a rover with a “hoisting mechanism” to grab the snake robots from atop the rover, placing them on the Martian surface where they could go to work. The same arm would then be used to collect the robots when they returned from their missions.

The ESA is still working through feasibility studies for their snake robot project. In the future, detachable, hydra-like robots might be exploring Mars, Titan and possibly other worlds. But projects like these make me wonder, should large organizations like ESA be used as research centers where the fundamental science and engineering of new space vehicle and technologies are developed so they can be licensed to private space ventures. Or should they still play a central role in the actual exploration of space itself.

I’m beginning to think it’s the former.

Images and Video Courtesy of SINTEF

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