Biologically Inspired Robots to Assist Areonauts on the Martian Surface

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G. P. Scott; C. M. Saaj (2009), JBIS, 62, 175-186

Refcode: 2009.62.175
Keywords: Microrovers, biomimetics, terramechanics, legged locomotion

Long before humans set foot on the surface of Mars, significant exploration of the surface will have been completed. Orbital spacecraft have certainly helped provide information about the surface to date, but significant advances are made through surface-based exploration. Not only does this include the Viking landers of years past, but also current and next generation mobile robots traversing the surface with scientific experiments for humans to better learn about this mostly unexplored environment. Many robotic vehicles have been proposed in recent years to assist astronauts on planetary surfaces. Only a few of these vehicles, or some aspects therein, have been inspired from biological creatures. With regards to the vehicle's locomotion system, looking into biologically inspired concepts is incredibly important because of the expectation of these astronauts exploring more complex terrain than current wheeled robotic explorers have yet traversed. This paper will review a number of robotic systems designed to assist Mars areonauts (astronauts specifically exploring Mars) before proposing a multi-purpose legged microrover assistant. This vehicle has a biologically inspired locomotion system which provides the capability to follow the areonauts over the most complex Martian terrain, or even traverse areas too complex for the areonaut to negotiate, in order to perform on-the-spot scientific experimentation as needed. The results of the biologically inspired vehicle's capability to traverse Mars terrain, both with regards to tractive capability in soil and ability to access more hostile terrain than its wheeled or tracked counterparts, will also be presented.

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