Landing an unmanned robot on another planet can be quite a feat and can end up being quite a complex process. Scientists want to make this process easier but also allow us to explore worlds that are currently too difficult to land on.
UC Berkeley professor Alice Agogino is working with doctoral students to build what are known as tensegrity robots. Essentially, these are robots built with a series of rods and tension wires that protect the delicate scientific instruments in the middle.
The structure allows for both flexibility and strength while navigating a rugged environment — for example, landing on a planet’s rocky surface. These robots can explore places that are currently inaccessible to wheeled rovers such as rocky cliffs, which are rich in geological data due to the exposed rock.
Currently, NASA researchers are working on a prototype to one day land on places such as Titan – one of Saturn’s moons. Scientists are interested in this moon because it has a thick atmosphere with flowing liquids on the surface and is often referred to being the most earthlike world in our solar system.