ATHLETE: NASA’s Six Limbed Robot Prototype To Support Human Exploration On Moon (video)
This is something big from NASA, really big. Engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are putting this All-Terrain, Hex-Limbed, Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE) under a series of long-drive tests on long dirt roads. ATHLETE is a half-scale working prototype of NASA’s actual robot under development to transport habitats and other cargo on the surface of the Moon or Mars.
This robot concept features six wheels at the end of each six configurable legs that ensure efficient driving over stable, gently rolling terrain. The wheels can also be locked and used as feet in excessively soft, obstacle rich, or other extreme terrain conditions. Envisioned as a heavy-lift utility vehicle, ATHLETE is a cargo deck which measures 15 feet tall and wide while weighs about 2,300 kilograms.
A joint project between NASA’s JPL, Stanford University and the Boeing Company, NASA is carrying out the tests in a move to check out whether the prototype meets the milestone of traveling at least 40 kilometers (25 miles) over 14 days under its own power. The robot is not so fast and moves with a top speed of 2 kilometers per hour.