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‘Hedgehog’ robots could shed light on origins of Mars moon

Spherical robots covered in spikes could be used to explore the surface of Mars’s moons, according to researchers in the US.

Scientists at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and NASA have designed the ‘hedgehog’ robots to roll across the cratered surface of the Martian moon Phobos, gathering and relaying information about its composition, and other data that could help to shed light on its origins.

The hedgehogs would be deployed from an orbiting mothership called the Phobos Surveyor, a coffee-table-sized vehicle flanked by two umbrella-shaped solar panels that would help the robots to determine their position and orientation in order to map their trajectories, and to relay their gathered data back to Earth.

Phobos could also be useful as a base for studying Mars and serve as a site to test technologies for use in a human mission to the planet because its gravity is much weaker than that of Mars and so costs and dangers would be reduced, said the robots’ developer Marco Pavone of Stanford’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

‘It’s a piece of technology that’s needed before any more expensive type of exploration is considered,’ he said in a statement. ‘Before sampling, we need to know where to land. We need to deploy rovers to acquire information about the surface.’

Read more: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/sectors/aerospace/news/hedgehog-robots-could-shed-light-on-origins-of-mars-moon/1015084.article#ixzz2GuT2evAA

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Category

engineering precision

Date

January 3, 2013

Author

Sally

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