NASA Tests 'PUFFER' - the Origami Robot that Will Explore Mars
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers designed PUFFER (Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot) to pack down nearly flat for transport through space, and then re-expand on site once on Mars. Inspired by origami, its lightweight design is capable of flattening itself, tucking in its wheels, and crawling into places rovers can't fit. Over the past year and a half, PUFFER has been tested in a range of rugged terrains, from the Mojave Desert in California to Antarctica. The idea is to explore areas that might be too risky for a full-fledged rover to go, such as steep slopes or behind sand dunes. PUFFER can climb 45-degree slopes, investigate overhangs, and drop into pits. The robot's circuit board includes both the electronics and the body, which allows it to be more compact. The wheels for the folding bot were made on a 3D printer. Solar panels on PUFFER's belly allow it to flip over and recharge in the sun.