Origami-Inspired PUFFER Robot Can Explore Mars

Posted: Mar 21 2017, 8:08am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Origami-Inspired PUFFER Robot Can Explore Mars
PUFFER was outfitted for field testing in snow during a recent trip to Antarctica's Mt. Erebus. Credits: Dylan Taylor

Valkyrie is not the only robot by NASA being honed for future Mars expeditions. The Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) is currently in development at the NASA. It is being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The lightweight PUFFER has a design capable of flattening itself. Simultaneously it can also tuck in its wheels and crawl into places where other large rovers can't.Its no surprise the PUFFER robot was inspired by an origami design.

Since last year PUFFER is being tested at a variety of rugged terrains such as the Mojave Desert in California and the hills of Antarctica. PUFFER was created specifically to explore terrains deemed too wild or untamed for human exploration.

PUFFER can skitter up 45-degree slopes and can even drop inside pits or craters. Small PUFFER micro-bots will also be assistants to a large robot companion and they might stack atop one another to make it.

PUFFER has also gone through field testing for Mars at the Rainbow Basin, California, which resembles the sedimentary rock slopes of the Red Planet.

The testing showed PUFFER can drive about 2,050 feet only on a single battery charge. The team at NASA JPL is trying to further make PUFFER a better companion for Mars.

PUFFER: Senses obstacles and self-adjusts appropriately.

The robot is being worked on to add instruments for water or organic material sampling. A spectrometer could also be added to study the chemical makeup of the surrounding environment.

The robot is also being made with Mars compatible material and the team is hopeful PUFFER will end up on a near mission.

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