Stanford University researchers are working with NASA to design a spiked space apparatus capable of maneuvering efficiently across asteroid and moon surfaces, on which low gravity and rough terrain would bog down a regular rover.
Scientists nicknamed the robots "hedgehogs" due to their round, spiky appearance. Those working on the project hope to eventually land the 'hogs on Phobos, a Martian moon.
Read more about space hedgehogs at Stanford University News. Link -via CNET
(Image credit: Stanford University Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics)
The hedgehogs do not have wheels, as do the current Mars rovers. Instead they rely on three rotating discs enclosed within each hedgehog, with each disc pointing in a different direction.
In the microgravity of Phobos, the inertial forces of the spinning disks allow the hedgehogs to move nimbly and precisely in environments that would leave other robots bouncing or floating uncontrollably. Quickly accelerating the discs causes the hedgehog to hop, while spinning them even faster results in a bound. Accelerating the discs just slightly makes the hedgehogs tumble, ideal for fine maneuvering.