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German robots could team up to explore lunar craters

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March 6, 2013

The RIMRES project combines the hexapod CREX (red robot at middle) and its transporter, SH...

The RIMRES project combines the hexapod CREX (red robot at middle) and its transporter, SHERPA

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While Japan is gearing up to send a miniature humanoid robot to the International Space Station, the DFKI Robotics Innovation Center and the ZARM (Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity) are working on a pair of robots that may one day help explore craters on the Moon in search of water ice. The RIMRES (Reconfigurable Integrated Multi Robot Exploration System) project combines a six-legged robot that can be picked up and moved with a faster wheeled transporter.

The SHERPA rover, a 2.4-meter (7.8-foot) long, 200-kg (440-pound) transporter moves using a hybrid wheel-leg system with adaptive suspension. It is therefore able to quickly move over bumpy terrain on its wheels, but can lift each of its four legs independently to climb over boulders or free itself should it become stuck. Its primary duty is to transport a scout robot to and from lunar craters, which it can lift and carry under its belly or with a 1.8-meter (5.9-foot) long arm.

The CREX (Crater Explorer) hexapod measures one meter (3.2 feet) in length and weighs just 27 kg (60 pounds). It's much too small and slow to get around the lunar expanse on its own, which is why it relies on SHERPA to get from place to place. Each leg has four joints and multiple sensors which help it walk on uneven terrain, allowing it to negotiate the steep slopes of a crater's rim. During transportation, it curls its legs up into a neat and tidy package to stay out of the way.

The RIMRES project builds on an earlier project called SpaceClimber, which ran from 2007-2010. That robot was a hexapod similar to CREX that could handle slopes up to 80 degrees and was semi-autonomous, capable of finding its way using built-in sensors. Of course, it will likely be years before these robots make the trip to the Moon, but for now they give us an enticing glimpse into what future space missions may look like.

You can see the pair in action in the videos below.

Source: DFKI Bremen via IEEE Spectrum

CREX and SHERPA

CREX postures

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers.   All articles by Jason Falconer
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1 Comment

I'd love to see home-brew robots on the moon, taken on 6-monthly round trips.

Based on Android perhaps, with engineers sharing designs and helping to improve others.

While building the solar belt?http://www.shimz.co.jp/english/theme/dream/lunaring.html

Seth Kazzim
8th March, 2013 @ 07:49 am PST
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