NASA Athlete rover dancing its way to the stars

NASA's Athlete prototype rover is designed to roll on the moon or Mars. Things got slightly funky at a recent test-drive on Earth.

NASA seems to be continuously developing rovers to explore and possibly colonize the moon and Mars, but none is as downright bizarre as the Athlete, an imposing, spidery robot that H.G. Wells might love.

Athlete
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Initially built in 2005, the latest-generation Athlete (or, All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) is actually two three-limbed robots that join together to form a platform for transporting payloads weighing up to 990 pounds in Earth gravity.

At full height when standing, the prototype is about 13 feet tall, but that's only half the size of what a launch version of Athlete might be.

The six articulated limbs can either roll or walk depending on the terrain, with a top speed of about 2 mph. Each limb can also serve as a manipulator. Tools such as drills, grippers, or scoops can be selected from a tool belt on the robot.

During recent tests at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Athlete was put through some trials on a dirt road. NASA staff released the sped-up video below, in which Athlete appears to bust a move.

As far as robots tripping the light fantastic go, it's no Manoi AT01 , but it's got style and grace, especially for a machine with six legs.

Athlete is slated to undergo testing in the Arizona desert next month, with NASA aiming to have it travel at least 25 miles over 14 days on its own power.

(Via Christian Science Monitor)

 

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