BEACON TRANSCRIPT – NASA is currently developing a new small robot. Named the PUFFER, this should be able to reach and traverse terrains inaccessible to most other rovers. For its latest technology, the aerospace agency drew inspiration from the ancient art of origami.
PUFFER Will Be Lightweight And Very Efficient
PUFFER translates into the Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot. As stated even in its name, NASA will be using it in order to carry out research missions. These will target, for the moment, a potential Martian exploration. However, the tiny trooper will not be limited to just the Red Planet. It may just as well help carry out missions across other planets as well.
Also as shown through its name, PUFFER is based on quite a novel technique inspired by an ancient art. NASA offered additional details about the rover through a post on its official website. As such, the space administration points out its source of inspiration from the very beginning.
It also reveals that PUFFER is currently being developed at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Nonetheless, NASA has already put the tiny rover to the test. Over the past year and a half, this was sent across a varied range of rugged terrains. As such, the PUFFER already visited the Mojave Desert in California, Antarctica’s snowy hills, and many others in between.
According to the space aerospace agency, PUFFER’s purpose is quite clear. The tiny rover should be able to reach and explore areas that “might be too risky”. Areas such as sand dunes or steep or snowy slopes may be too hard for full-fledged rovers. As such the PUFFER was specifically designed to be both small and lightweight.
The PUFFER And Its Design
For its design, the NASA scientists turned their attention towards origami. By doing do, they created a foldable, lightweight rover. This is capable of flattening itself and crawling into otherwise inaccessible locations. It can do so as it is also able to tuck in its wheels.
PUFFER should also be able to drop into craters or pits or hang on their edge. It should be able to skitter up on even 45-degrees angled slopes. Its lightweight nature also means that it can be easily stored. As such, more than one such rover could be folded and placed on top of another. Then, the pliable stack could act as an assistant to a larger robot.
PUFFER should also be able to explore various environments thanks to its power source. The rover will run on solar energy as it is equipped with special such panels. These should ensure its energy source. Initial tests showed that a single battery charge ensures a 2,050 feet autonomy. This result was registered as a PUFFER was driving along a dirt path. The autonomy may nonetheless vary a little according to rover’s onboard equipment.
According to NASA “The JPL is looking at adding a number of instruments that would allow it [PUFFER] to sample water for organic material, or a spectrometer to study the chemical makeup of its environment.”
As such, the team is still developing its microrobot which could come to change its size, instruments, or even its habitat as it may one day head towards Mars.
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