The figure depicts the steep terrain access robot (STAR) — a walking robot that has been proposed for exploring steep terrain on remote planets. Robots based on the STAR concept could also be used on steep terrain on Earth for diverse purposes that could include not only scientific exploration but also military reconnaissance and search-and-rescue operations.
The STAR would be able to climb up or down on slopes as steep as vertical, and even beyond vertical to overhangs. Its system of walking mechanisms and controls would be to react forces and maintain stability. The STAR would be capable of performing such tasks as acquisition of samples and placement of instruments. To enable the STAR to anchor itself in the terrain on steep slopes to maintain stability and react forces, it would be necessary to equip the tips of the walking legs with new ultrasonic/ sonic drill corers (USDCs) and to develop sensors and control algorithms to enable robust utilization of the USDCs.
The plan for the initial stage of development calls for construction of a prototype STAR as a combination of a walking robot, denoted the LEMUR IIb, that was described in "Modification of a Legged Robot to Favor Climbing" (NPO-40354), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 30, No. 4 (April 2006), page 80. The prototype would enable testing of the STAR concept on planar slopes. Eventually, a robot more like the one shown in the figure would be constructed. This robot would be capable of moving over slopes having three-dimensional features.
This work was done by Brett Kennedy, Anthony Ganino, Hrand Aghazarian, Robert Hogg, Michael McHenry, and Michael Garrett of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-41158.