NASA's New Rover Is Literally A Pile Of Sticks

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Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)

A somewhat awesome rover with a somewhat silly name, this is the ‘Super Ball Bot’. This contraption is light enough and agile enough to make its way around Saturn’s moon, Titan, as it can pack itself into a tiny space and expand for full functionality. It wouldn’t even need a parachute to land on the moon. While it’s still in the prototype phase, the robot could sail down the 62 miles to the surface without sustaining any damage. Once it lands it can begin exploring the moon in It’s unique wobbly way.

This false-color mosaic, made from infrared data collected by NASA' class=

This false-color mosaic, made from infrared data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, reveals the differences in the composition of surface materials around hydrocarbon lakes at Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. To human eyes Titan would look Orange. Image released Oct. 23, 2013.

Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. It is the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere, and the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found.
On April 3, 2013, NASA reported that complex organic chemicals could arise on Titan based on studies simulating the atmosphere of Titan.

Even with the data provided by the Voyager probes, Titan remained a body of mystery—a planet-like satellite shrouded in an atmosphere that makes detailed observation difficult. The intrigue that had surrounded Titan since the 17th-century observations of Christiaan Huygens and Giovanni Cassini was gratified by a spacecraft named in their honor.

cassini-huygens first pic of titan moon

On January 14, 2005, the Huygens probe landed on the surface of Titan. After landing, Huygens photographed a dark plain covered in small rocks and pebbles, which are composed of water ice.

So long story short, It’s a mystical world which could in theory harbor life. This design is a great step towards the exploration of Titan.

There is no single point of failure in a tensegrity robot, says SunSpiral, no axles or hinges that must be strengthened to withstand stress. Instead, the force of an impact—whether it’s a landing or a fall off a cliff—is absorbed and diffused over multiple paths. “With a tensegrity structure, the entire structure shares the burden of reducing that stress, which is what you see in human bodies,” he says. Since they are deformable, the robots could also interact more effectively with the environment, extricating themselves from surfaces, such as soft sand, that challenge traditional wheeled rovers.


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Johny (John-Erik) Krahbichler is the CEO and main author of Gadgetzz, since 2009. While Mr. Krahbichler's expertise is in consumer electronics, his true passion is science´, and educating the world about the universe we inhabit. Check out the non-profit Scientific Literacy Matters Currently Johny is using his experience from covering trade shows such as the CES, to work with trade show exhibition marketing.

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