Table 6 Examples of novel robotic locomotion concepts for future space exploration (all images courtesy of JPL/NASA).
Embedded ImageMars helicopter (36)
Mars helicopter is proposed to facilitate surface rover operations. Despite
the thin Martian atmosphere (only 0.6% that of Earth), the solar-powered
Mars helicopter at 1 kg in mass and with a 1.1-m-long rotor, would scout
ahead of a surface rover, providing critical imagery to enable the rover to
drive up to three times as far per sol.
Mars airplane (37)Embedded Image
Whereas the extremely thin Martian atmosphere makes air vehicles
challenging, a Mars airplane is proposed as the Preliminary Research
Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars (or Prandtl-m). A Mars airplane could
be released as part of the entry, descent, and landing ballast for a future
Mars-landed mission to acquire unique airborne imaging of the Martian
surface.
Embedded ImageTitan aerobot (38)
Test flight in the Mojave Desert, CA, USAWith a dense methane atmosphere providing strong lift and weak gravity,
an aerobot is an ideal vehicle to explore Titan, a moon of Saturn. Titan is
of great interest to scientists because of its abundant methane as a
possible ingredient for life and its liquid methane lakes on the surface.
Aerobots and montgolfiers have been proposed and tested to develop
technologies for this ambitious robotic mission.
Mars dual-axel rover (39)Embedded Image
Recent interest in recurrent slope linnae as liquids on the surface of Mars has
spurred interest in robotic access to extreme slopes to study these science
phenomena. The axel robot is a single axle with tether designed to rappel
down steep slopes. In a dual-axel rover configuration, one axel would
remain at the top of the slope as an anchor to allow the other axel to rappel
down the slope.
Embedded ImageUnderwater vehicle (40)
BRUIE Field trials in Alaska, USAScientists now believe that there are at least eight ocean worlds in our solar
system. These liquid oceans may provide the best chance for life outside
Earth in our solar system. BRUIE, Buoyant Rover for Under Ice Exploration
underwater vehicle, is a rover designed to roam the underside of the icy
shell at the top of an ocean (such as on Europa, Enceladus, or other ocean
worlds). BRUIE could rove along the underside of ice—adjusting its
buoyancy to maintain contact or hop at will. Its position at the water-ice
interface offers it a great position to explore this unique surface where
evidence of life may exist.