TECH
08/09/2015 08:24 BST | Updated 08/09/2015 08:59 BST

NASA's Hedgehog Robot To Boost Asteroid Research

NASA has unveiled a small hedgehog-like robot that will be able to hop, tumble and flip over uncertain terrains found on asteroids and alien planets.

The device is better equipped to deal with low-gravity conditions and rough surfaces that would normally prove difficult for robots such as the Mars rover, which move around using traditional wheels.

"Hedgehog is a different kind of robot that would hop and tumble on the surface instead of rolling on wheels. It is shaped like a cube and can operate no matter which side it lands on," said Issa Nesnas, leader of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

With a small cube body surrounded by spikes, the robot uses internal flywheels to spin and brake.

Aside from acting like feet, the spikes also protect the robot's body as it hops and tumbles across the terrain, says NASA.

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"The spikes could also house instruments such as thermal probes to take the temperature of the surface as the robot tumbles," Nesnas said.

In June, researchers tested two prototypes aboard the NASA's C-9 aircraft for microgravity research, using a wide range of surfaces including sandy, rough and rocky, slippery and icy, and soft and crumbly.

Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, have joined hands with NASA to develop the bot's capabilities.