The Curiosity Rover might be adept, but it cannot scale the walls and the polar caps on Mars. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) pushes the capabilities of their rovers as they develop “some far out concepts for climbing robots that could explore hard-to-reach points on other worlds.”
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JPL’s Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR) was originally designed to do repairs on the International Space Station. And, while that repair program is no longer around, engineers continue to test the robot and use their experiences with LEMUR to derive exploration robots for future missions on Mars or on far-off moons.
In early 2019, LEMUR made it up steep walls during a field test in Death Valley, California. It scaled a cliff using tiny fishhooks embedded in each of its 16 “fingers.” While en route, the robot also searched for ancient fossils to simulate searching for life on distant worlds.
(Image Credit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech)